How To Be A Master Negotiator

with Greg Williams


Greg Williams is a master negotiator and body language expert and has studied and practiced negotiation strategies and tactics for more than 30 years. He has also spent more than 20 years studying the specific impact that body language can have on negotiations. Greg has written seven books, including Negotiating With A Bully.

Back to the Basics

When Greg was younger, he had a deep desire to become a businessman. The only role models he saw in his life were businesspeople and that drew him to this career. He even wore a suit and carried a briefcase when he attended middle school!

Negotiation Mistakes

One of the most common negotiation mistakes that leaders make is failing to prepare. Some of the important things to consider ahead of time are what you are willing to give in the negotiations versus where you hold fast to your requirements. Also, ensuring that you have a plan for getting conversations back on track will allow you to navigate unexpected situations as they arise. Other factors to consider are what you are attempting to accomplish, how you intend to accomplish this, and with whom you will be negotiating. These what, how, and who questions are the bare minimum of preparation for any negotiation. Also, keep in mind that the longer you stay unnecessarily engaged in a negotiation, the more likely you are to make unwanted concessions. The moral of the story is, get out while you’re ahead!

Body Language

Body language plays a crucial role in any negotiation as it allows for additional information to be passed between everyone involved. Although we would like to believe that we are fully in control of our bodies, everyone is passing along small (or large!) signals that provide information in addition to word choice and tone. In negotiations, it is important to identify instances where body language and word choice do not align. Our bodies want to be comfortable at all times and when word choice does not match up perfectly with what someone is actually feeling or thinking, this dissonance can be displayed through body language. Ultimately, what you say, think, and do are all immensely important in negotiations.

Who Wins?

While there are many principles of negotiating that remain constant, there are such a wide variety of potential situations that a great negotiator must remain flexible and adaptable at all times. In some circumstances, there is the opportunity for all parties involved to walk out of the room feeling completely comfortable with the outcome. In other circumstances, stakeholders may have a bully mentality where they feel that success is dependent on “winning” the negotiation. It can be easy to mistake someone with particularly tough negotiation tactics for a negotiation bully. An easy way to discern the difference is to ask follow-up questions to flush out their true intent.

Be Your Best Self

Not everyone is particularly comfortable negotiating and might find themselves feeling nervous or insecure if the conversation is not following the plan they expected. If this is the case, the best thing to do is to completely remove yourself from the situation. This will allow you to regain your composure and identify what you are hoping to accomplish next. Also, the person who is asking more questions in a negotiation usually has more control of the situation as they direct the flow of conversation and gain more information while giving out less.

Negotiating with Friends and Family

Negotiating with friends and family is very challenging. Negotiations are tricky enough as it is and adding a relationship dynamic can increase this difficulty immensely. As with all negotiations, at the end of the day, you need to feel satisfied with the outcome of the conversation. With family members, there may be instances where you need to make a concession – which is completely fine as long as you feel comfortable with your decision.

Final Advice

There is so much to learn about negotiating! Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Take into account what the other person wants and what they really need.
Strive for mutual success. We first, not me first.
Ask people what is of value to them. Then watch their actions and see if they match. If not, bridge the gap and fine-tune how you interact with them.
Remember that what people do is always more important than what they say.
You are always negotiating. What you do today impacts tomorrow’s opportunities and impacts the relationships that you have in the future.

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