A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending Negotiation and Leadership, a course offered through Harvard Law School’s Program on Negotiation. It was an incredible learning experience; I highly recommend it if you are interested in honing your negotiation skills.

For now, I thought I would share three valuable strategies I took away from the program:


    A critical element to any good negotiation is planning in advance.

    Before entering into a discussion, be sure you are clear on:

    • Your minimum acceptable deal

    • Your ideal deal

    • Your alternative to making a deal

    • Your counterpart’s minimum acceptable deal

    • Your counterpart’s ideal deal

    • Your counterpart’s alternative to making a deal


    One of the most challenging skills to master is the art of active listening. To be effective, listen to the interests and concerns of your counterpart….without judgment. This will provide critical insights into their motivations and needs.

    Sometimes, you are able to give them what they want at no additional financial cost to you. For example, when a new employee negotiates their package, it is not only the salary that will contribute to their quality of life. Vacation, a flexible work schedule, and parental leave also have tremendous value. Look beyond the obvious.

    Rather than looking to split ‘the pie,’ try to come up with ways to make ‘the pie’ larger.


    Daniel Shapiro, Founder and Director of Harvard’s International Negotiation Program, created a construct of five core concerns that helps you better understand your counterpart’s motivations and needs. He offers a unique way to leverage the power of emotions in negotiations.

    Shapiro proposes that our emotions stem from these five areas:

    • Appreciation

    • Autonomy

    • Affiliation

    • Status

    • Role

    Using these core concerns can serve as a lens through which it becomes easier to understand your emotions and those of your counterpart. They can also be used as a lever to uncover resolutions.

    For example, imagine you are the CFO of your organization. One of your responsibilities is to meet with each department and prepare a budget to be approved by the CEO and Board of Directors. If one of your core concerns is appreciation, you may feel irritated if everything goes through smoothly but the CEO does not recognize and acknowledge your efforts.

    Conversely, if the CEO sits you down and reviews your work line item by line item, you may feel that your autonomy, status and/or role is being threatened.

    Being able to understand the core concerns of your counterpart enables you to act in such a way that you give them what they need while still protecting your own interests.

What strategies do you use in a negotiation that are effective in helping you to get more of what you want while maintaining strong, healthy relationships?

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