By the time you finish reading this article

  • You will have 10 practical rules to abide by to maximize your negotiations.
  • You will know why these rules are important and why they work.
  • You will have a 1-page negotiation reference sheet to accompany you wherever you go.
  • It is highly likely that one idea in this article will challenge your beliefs and change the way you look at negotiations forever. 


You will do much better if you eliminate the fear associated with life or death thinking in negotiation. In life or death negotiations, the stake is, well, surviving. If you don’t reach an agreement, this is the end.

In business #negotiations , there are two or more parties engaged in an effort to solve a business issue or to reach a shared obective by means of a series of agreements, and walking away means just that, you have the right to do it, and you will survive.

You will always clear your judgment and decision making by looking at your negotiations, big or small, from some distance.


If you don’t know what a bad deal looks like to you, how will you know whether the other party or parties have brought you where they wanted you to end up, without you noticing there was something inherently wrong in the deal you craved so much (see advice #1)?

Eliminate addiction to instant negotiation gratification (the need to make deals, any deals) by making sure you know and communicate where your boundaries are. Use the tools of assertive #communication : persistence, fogging, broken record, negative inquiry (about yourself), “I” messages (no, “I” is not evil, it is a strong way to communicate feelings, perceptions, and, as importantly, what you want).

Invite all parties to tell you what a bad deal looks like to them. You will learn a lot, because people tend to talk more when they have negative things to communicate. And the more they talk, the more they will disclose what is important to them, which is the key to unlock your negotiations.


Even in the most adversarial negotiations, all parties are at the table because they feel they need someone from the other parties in order to solve a problem or reach an objective which they cannot attain on their own.

What is it that you have that can bring long term value to them? Under which conditions are you willing to contribute it to create a virtuous, sustainable, cycle of agreements which can benefit you as you are contributing to the outcomes they are looking for?

Writing it down will prevent you from confusing unnecessary and forced compromise to reach the appearance of a deal for necessary and voluntary contribution to co-creation, co-construction, of a robust agreement which will stand the test of time. It will become your negotiation True North, against which you can evaluate all your decisions. It will be the foundation of your negotiation #leadership.

No wind is a good wind if you don’t know where you’re going. Define, refine, your destination, write it down, then do what it takes to make it happen.


A few hundred years ago, a young monk came to see a wise old sage on the top of the Himalayas to seek enlightenment over tea. The old sage started pouring the finest tea in existence in the whole region, rich in unknown flavors and scents, in the young monk’s cup. All the while, the young monk explained to the old sage all the things he had learned, all the things he knew, all the understanding he had reached about worldly and heavenly affairs.

While the young monk was speaking, the old sage kept pouring tea in the young monk’s cup, so much so that it eventually overflowed. Seeing that the old sage continued pouring tea in the now overflowing cup, the young monk interjected “what are you doing ?!?? Can’t you see the cup is full?” to which the old sage replied “there are few objects as useful as an empty cup.” And at that, he stood up, and left.

Empty your cup. Forget what you (think you) know, forget what you (think you) understand. Clear your mind and create an empty space ready to receive what you don’t know, what you don’t understand. There is power in ignorance. Use it.


Hmmm… if it comes first, why is it not even on the last step of the rules podium? Well it’s because the risk is high to misunderstand the empathy concept if you embrace it without distance, and without boundaries, and without an empty mind which protects you from the neediness born from the confirmation bias created by your expectations.

In high stakes negotiations, there is a very high likelihood that all parties at the table do not have your interests at heart, but their own interests! And it all makes sense, because negotiation is not mediation. So you need to look at your coming negotiation from some sort of out-of-body coaching perspective, a coaching distance, what psychologists call the “meta” position (from the latin meta = around), and know your limits before you engage.

You are here at the table because “they” need something from you. So empathy is number one in the sense that only by empathizing with them will you create a safe environment in which they can faithfully disclose who “they” are and what they want. In other words, use #emotionalintelligence to create the conditions for a safe exchange of #information.


Now that your cup is (hopefully) empty, that you have made empathy a priority after making sure you know your limits, which can frame the conversation because your life does not depend on it, now you must ask questions. Let me rephrase that. You must ask awesome questions.

What is an awesome question? To answer that, it might be a good idea to ask ourselves, what is a question? A question is not a sentence with a question mark at the end! 90% of questions asked on autopilot are actually just assumptions or interpretations followed by a question mark. “You said this… is it because…?” is just an example.

Remember that emptying your cup means no expectations. Expectations trigger the confirmation bias, which 1) prevents you from asking awesome questions and 2) makes it impossible to hear the answers which contradict our expectations. Furthermore, expectations fuel neediness, the negotiation failure disease (see Rule #1) and the fear (False Expectations Appearing Real) of losing “the” deal.

“I keep six honest serving-men (They taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When And How and Where and Who.” Rudyard Kipling

An awesome question serves several purposes, kills several birds with one stone: purpose N.1, obvious to everybody, is to get answers. Purpose N.2, hidden to most everybody, to direct the brain of the people you ask toward their vision of the business or personal pain they are trying to avoid or the objective they want to achieve (and the pain of not being there yet), AND how what you bring to the table can help them get from here to there (no bird was ever actually hurt by awesome questions).


“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Steven Covey.

I am talking about active listening, deep listening, focused listening. The kind of listening in which you hear only one voice, that of the person speaking, not yours. By this I mean shut down that internal voice which is telling you what to say next while the person opposite the table is speaking.

Listen with the intent of discovering what the real problem is, what the hidden key to the negotiation is, as seen by the person who is talking. Listen to the content, but also to how she sees the world. Is she visual, auditive, kinesthetic? Is she focused on the past, the present, or the future? Does she speak more about people, activities, things, ideas, places? Is she detail-oriented or big picture?   And so on…

Listen to what she is saying about her vision of pain, defined as the driver to the negotiation, and the systems at work for or against her as well as for or against you in the negotiation.

And take great notes.


Take great notes. Enough, that you may keep the core of what was said. Little enough so you don’t miss what is being said because you are too busy noting. If you can, assign one team member as a note taker so you can listen more and better.

What does taking great notes mean?

Your notes must answer the below questions:

What pain did they acknowledge that I can alleviate?

What objective haven’t they reached that I can help them reach?

What did they say, what didn’t they say?

What problems do I see, what opportunities, how will I test them?

How do they make decisions?

How do they see value?

How invested are the various decision makers in the negotiation in terms of time, energy, money, and emotion?

How do I know that?

What have we achieved?

What is missing?

Where is this going?

These kinds of notes.


You are going to be subject to strong winds, sudden weather changes, but you must go on flying the plane. What do pilots rely on? An overall flight plan, (your negotiator’s Mission & Purpose), and checklists to guide them through tough weather!

What does a negotiation checklist look like? There are several schools of thought in this arena, so I’d like to make suggestions which you can adapt to your particular background and negotiations because we are all different and no two negotiations are 100% similar.

A great checklist includes the answers to the following questions:

Who is sitting on the opposite side of the (possibly virtual) table?

Who is deciding behind the scenes?

How will they see and decide what quality and quantity of value I bring to the table?

What power games could they use?

What are their / our alternatives?

What happens on both sides of the table if we do not reach agreement?

What do we want to collectively achieve?

What are my boundaries?

What are the negotiating points on my side?

What are the negotiating points on their side?

What does the zone of possible agreement (aka collaborative value) look like?

What do the tradeables look like?

What are the problems I have identified which block the path to an agreement?

Are there any emotional obstacles?

What questions will I ask?

How will I ask them to create the right climate for them to answer truthfully?

What happens after what comes next?


Don’t let your obsession with results ruin your focus on preparation.

Don’t let your need to please ruin your focus on execution.

Focus on what you can control: your activities (what you do), your behaviors (what you say, how you say it), your decisions.

If you try to control the uncontrollable, the uncontrollable will control you.

You cannot control time, places, people, the past, and most importantly, you cannot control results, only what is under your control to navigate a path toward accomplishment of your mission and purpose.

Influence is not control.

Instead of trying to control the uncontrollable, execute as planned.

Remember Top Gun’s motto: “fight as we train.”

Proper preparation which is not followed by proper execution is an exercise in futility.


Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes the concept of flow as the state of mind in which you are at the same time wide awake and aware of everything happening around you in a particular context, while being able to adapt to the circumstances according to a playbook you have defined in advance.

To create this state of flow in your negotiations, you have to integrate all the above elements into a system. Your well taken notes become the foundation of your checklists for the next negotiation event, in which you apply rules 1 to 10 to move toward the accomplishment of your mission & purpose, to the long term benefit of the other party or parties, within the limits of your boundaries.

So remember (and you can print the 10 rules on a single sheet of paper):












So there you have it,

  • 10 negotiation rules to abide by to maximize your negotiations in 2023.
  • You know why these rule are important and why they work.
  • You have a 1-page negotiation reference sheet to accompany you wherever you go.
  • It is highly likely that one idea in this article has challenged your beliefs and changed the way you look at negotiations forever.  

This article was inspired by the works of Prs Florence and Hervé Le Lous, my 30+ years of negotiations conducted in Europe and Asia, working with Jim Camp, and working with my pals at Halifax Consulting.

About the author:

Nicolas Clement is an internationally recognized negotiation expert. He is the Global Head of the Negotiation Practice at Halifax Consulting and Chief Growth Officer of Halifax Consulting Asia. Nicolas is an inductee in the Million Dollar Consulting Mentor Hall of Fame and is Certified Asia Negotiation Expert of the exclusive global French CEO Circle APM – Association Progrès du Management. He is a TEDx Speaker on Negotiation and a visiting Professor in Negotiation in the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) GEMBA, ranked #2 by the Financial Times.

Nicolas is in high demand for Keynote Speaking, Negotiation #coaching , Executive Coaching, and #training in #sales , #negotiation , and #leadership . As a Negotiation Coach , he has assisted a $½-billion acquisition. As an Executive Coach he has coached the presentation to the Board of Directors of a Fortune 500 China strategy by the China CEO. As a trainer, he is currently overseeing a global training mission involving 150 trainees across America, Europe, and #asia in Sales, Negotiation, and Management for a €150m French industrial group.

To inquire about Nicolas Keynoting, Negotiation Assistance, Executive Coaching or Training, please email info@negoasia.com.    

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