Winning the negotiation game

By Dr Alex Cheung, Master Trainer of NLP

This is the fourth in a six-part series focusing on various ways that neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) can be applied in today's business world.

Success requires the mastering of thoughts, feelings and behaviour

Some people think that the best negotiators are those who put their best offer out first and refuse to budge at all from their opening position. Many people think of negotiation as either a way to win something or as a way to lose something. Still others think they need to lie their way to resolution. Each of these positions is bound to limit our awareness, choices and effective actions.

Negotiation by behavioural psychology is a very powerful communication process. It aims to encourage multi-channels of information sharing, to foster understanding and ultimately to achieve the desired outcome of all parties. Success requires an acknowledgement and mastering of our personal thoughts, feelings and behaviour as well as a knowledge and understanding of how other people think and a respect for and understanding of their positions.

Every conflict we face in life is rich with positive and negative potential. It can be a source of inspiration, enlightenment, learning, transformation, and growth - or of rage, fear, shame, entrapment, and resistance. The choice is not up to our opponents, but to us, and our willingness to face it and work through it.

Looking into conflict means giving up your illusions, no longer seeing yourself as a victim or other people as enemies. It requires giving up your fear of engaging in honest communication with someone you distrust. By skilfully confronting your problems, entering into them and passing through to the other side, you can develop, grow, learn, and become more available to the people you value in your life.

To win the negotiation game, we should first operate from a space of openness, possibility and curiosity, bringing a desire for resolution and commitment to the process. Here are the key elements of the journey:

Understand the culture and the context of conflict and the people involved. Establish rapport with the other party. If there is a group of people around the negotiating table, build rapport with the key decision maker. Please note that the key decision maker may not be the boss. We have to watch closely and find out.

Be calm and alert. Remember our EMBA model? (explained in Article 1 of the same series). If we let our emotions override us we are not likely to achieve anything. So, disengage our fight-or-flight response, clear our mind of everything we think we already knew about the conflict, and listen empathetically to our opponent.

State clearly, and without negative feelings, our intent and outcome. Listen and calibrate them carefully to those expressed by others.

Look below the surface of what is being said (or not said) to resolve the underlying reasons for the dispute.

Establish common ground by the "chunking up technique". Look for intended outcomes for both parties.

Find out the barriers by the "chunking down technique". See what specifically is unacceptable to us or the other party or what stops us from reaching mutual agreement.

Separate the person from the problem, the future from the past, and positions from intentions. Identify positive intentions behind the barriers.

Re-define conflict as a challenge to find solutions. Brainstorm all potential solutions to the conflict; listen, understand, and ask the other person to work with us to develop criteria to resolve it.

Negotiate collaboratively rather than aggressively, and look for values, beliefs and outcomes that will help resolve the dispute fairly, to our mutual satisfaction.

Finalise the negotiation by a give and take process and initiate the "break state process" to keep the door of negotiation open.

The opportunities for learning from negotiation are infinite and unbounded. If we want to find opportunities in our conflicts to learn and grow, where can we locate them? We suggest one of the many answers - by relaxing, and moving toward and through our conflicts. As we do so, we will be able to notice each of our habitual patterns, limitations, weaknesses, and stuck places. Noticing obstacles automatically creates the possibility of learning how to transcend them.

Redefining conflict

  • Give up your illusions
  • Confront your problems
  • Be calm and alert
  • Establish common ground

    Dr Alex Cheung FHKIE, FCMI, FInstAM, FHKIoD, FIOSH is a chartered engineer with more than 30 years experience. He has been appointed to serve on advisory boards and committees with many reputable universities and public organisations. Currently Dr Cheung is a Master Trainer of NLP and actively promoting Behaviour Psychology to unleash people's inner potential. For information please visit or contact Alex Cheung at

  • Taken from Career Times 27 August 2004
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