The Art of Negotiating in Business, Social, and Personal Negotiations

The Art of Negotiating: Business, Social, and Personal Negotiations

The Art of Negotiating: Business, Social, and Personal Negotiations

The Impact of Negotiation in All Aspects of Life

Negotiation is a cornerstone of human interaction, impacting our personal lives and the commercial landscape.  Negotiating is an essential life skill that transcends boundaries, weaving through the fabric of our existence, from the boardroom, a meeting with a key account, to the family dinner table.

In this article, I’ll delve into the definition of negotiation in commercial, social, and personal contexts, unveiling the common threads that bind these seemingly distinct domains.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines negotiation as “the process of discussing something with someone to reach an agreement or the discussions themselves.”

Negotiation can also be explained as a strategic discussion intended to resolve an issue in a way both parties find acceptable. Negotiation can be a dialogue between two or more parties to resolve points of difference, gain an advantage for an individual or collective, or craft outcomes to satisfy various interests.

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However, many “definitions” available in the public domain are unhelpful when we teach or coach our clients.  The terms “negotiation or negotiating” are overused, misunderstood or misinterpreted in the media, and most people rarely understand negotiating.

When I start our negotiating training seminars or negotiation workshops, I often ask participants how they define negotiating.  After a few minutes of me looking at blank stares in the audience – or receiving inaccurate responses, most people need help defining the term – it’s critical to describe what negotiating is – before we teach people our negotiating methodology, strategies, and tactics.

Our Definition of Negotiation/Negotiating:

We define commercial negotiations as the disciplined process to determine what is of value to the other side without giving away things that are of no value/importance to them that cost you – or your company money.

In a personal negotiation, we define negotiating as the means of moving an involved party to some degree in a desired direction.  Negotiating is defined as the essence of progress in a personal or social situation.

The Commercial Arena: Defining Negotiation

In the commercial/business world, negotiation is often seen as a structured process of reaching agreements, typically centred around tangible assets, services, or contractual terms.  It can be a high-stakes dance where parties strive to maximize their gains while minimizing concessions.

Commercial negotiations can occur between businesses, individuals and businesses, or within organizations.

Critical Elements of Commercial Negotiation:

  1. Objective-driven: In commercial negotiations, there are clear objectives – profit, market share, cost reduction, etc.  Success is often measured in quantifiable terms, making it imperative to create a well-defined strategy.
  2. Legal Framework: Commercial negotiations are guided by contracts and legal frameworks, ensuring that both sides fulfill their obligations and that there are repercussions for breaches.
  3. Expertise and Preparation: Due diligence, market analysis, and thorough preparation are vital. The sides involved in a negotiation come to the table with data, facts, and a deep understanding of their counterpart’s needs and constraints.
  4. Competitive Edge: Negotiations in business are typically competitive, where each side seeks to gain an advantage over the other.  This competitive spirit drives innovation and economic progress.

The Personal Sphere: A Different Angle on Negotiation

In contrast, personal negotiations are often less structured and revolve around relationships, emotions, and intangible needs.  Whether deciding on a vacation destination with your partner, significant other or spouse – or you’re trying to negotiate with children over chores on a Saturday morning – personal negotiations are integral to daily life.

Key Elements of Personal Negotiation:

  1. Relationship-Centric: Personal negotiations are rooted in relationships.  The aim is not just to reach an agreement; however, the goal is to maintain harmony and strengthen bonds.
  2. Emotional Quotient: Emotions play a significant role.  Empathy, understanding, and emotional intelligence are vital for navigating personal negotiations successfully.
  3. Informal Nature: Unlike commercial negotiations, personal negotiations often lack formal contracts and legal consequences. Trust and verbal agreements are the glue that holds personal negotiations together.
  4. Mutual Satisfaction: In personal negotiations, the goal is not just individual gain but mutual satisfaction.  Striking a balance between individual needs and the relationship’s needs is critical.

The Interplay: Where the Lines Blur

While commercial and personal negotiations may seem worlds apart, they’re not entirely distinct.  In reality, the negotiation skills, strategies, tactics, techniques, and principles from one sphere often prove useful in the other.

  • Communication: Effective communication is a common denominator.  Active listening, clearly expressing needs, and building rapport are valuable in both arenas.
  • Problem-Solving: Negotiation is fundamentally about solving problems and finding common ground.  Whether closing a business deal or resolving a family conflict, the art of reaching for compromise and creative problem-solving is essential.
  • Ethics and Integrity: Integrity and ethical behaviour are vital in commercial and personal negotiations.  Trust is fragile, and once broken, it’s challenging to rebuild.


In conclusion, negotiation is a versatile art that transcends boundaries.  While commercial negotiations are often structured and objective-driven, personal negotiations are imbued with emotions and focused on relationships.  Yet, both spheres share commonalities in communication, problem-solving, and ethics.  Understanding these shared elements can enhance your skills in both domains, making you a more adept and empathetic negotiator.

So, whether you’re closing a multimillion-dollar deal or mediating a household dispute, remember that negotiation is about more than just reaching an agreement – it’s about forging connections and achieving mutual satisfaction.

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