Jan 312017
  • Can the language of a negotiation prevent confrontation?
  • Can a negotiation be a discussion without opposition?
  • Can the parties in a negotiation establish a working dialogue?
  • Can all parties in a negotiation come out with a gain?

The answer to all the above questions is YES!  In fact the last question presents a critical feature of a successful negotiation: creating a “win-win” situation for all parties.  

Establish Dialogue

A negotiation needs to be a dialogue between all parties so that a compromise can be reached and each party gains some positive outcome.  Language lies at the heart of a successful negotiation.  Verbal language, the words and sentences to establish a dialogue without opposition, remains critical.  Body language must support the verbal part of communication as well.

Dealing With Differing Viewpoints 

It is inevitable that the parties in a negotiation will have different points of view.  Objecting to the other side’s position needs to be respectful, while acknowledging that the other party represents a different set of ideas.

Using language that is conciliatory will minimize opposition.  Phrases such as “from my perspective… I’m sorry, but… unfortunately…”

Negative verbal language will shut down a dialogue.  Phrases such as “you’re wrong… that’s a lie/incorrect…” will not foster compromise, which is the goal of every successful negotiation.

Body language needs to support a respectful dialogue.  A stiff, hands-crossed across body posture, grimacing or head shaking will contribute to confrontation, not dialogue.

Taking a Different Perspective

In a negotiation both parties should be able to explain their position and the reasons for their point of view.  Understanding the other side’s perspective can prove highly valuable in fostering compromise. Words such as “I can see your point, but… let’s try to find a middle ground…” can reduce opposition.  Remember the need for a “win-win” philosophy that underlies every successful negotiation.

Foster Compromise

Verbal statements that propose a middle ground can be framed as “if… then…” possibilities.  Language promoting compromise creates a “give and take” attitude and the potential for a “win-win” solution.

Body language to support this compromise can be represented by open hands, palms cupped or turning upwards, indicating an inclusion of both sides in a resolution.

Confirming the Solution

If you’re successful in reaching a compromise — no one wins a negotiation — it’s important to verbally summarize and state the agreement that has been reached so there’s no misunderstanding later.  In formal situations, a written form of the agreement will be documented either by one of the parties or an impartial third party.  The handshake or some form of body language signals that the negotiation has concluded — and everyone has “won” in the process.


Check back soon for more articles on communications, speech-language pathology, writing and executive functioning.




  2 Responses to “The Language of Negotiation”

  1. Such a good article, Gloria. What has been interesting in my work with Aspergers youngsters is that few people actually understand the situation form the kid’s point of view. Even if the teacher’s, psychologist’s, parent’s, or peers’ view is more logical and more socially “correct”, sometimes the most important viewpoint is from the child who has the serious emotional issue. Let’s keep up the conversation (rjb@autismspeech.com)

    • I appreciate your applying the concept of “point of view” to another context that might not be readily apparent. Taking someone else’s perspective has an importance in many aspects of our lives. Thanks for pointing out how you see the relevance of this feature in working with Asperger’s and individuals on the autistic spectrum and the valuable intervention you do with this population.

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