“Improve Your Critical Thinking How To Quickly Win More Negotiations” – Negotiation Tip of the Week

“Critical thinking allows negotiators to foresee unforeseen circumstances in negotiations.” -Greg Williams, The Master Negotiator & Body Language Expert

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Have you been caught off-guard during negotiations due to your lack of critical thinking skills? Critical thinking is a must-have skill in personal relationships and business; without it, your efforts to achieve a more successful negotiation outcome will become jeopardized.

You can acquire better critical thinking skills, and this is how you can accomplish that.

Step 1: Maintain Unbias and Curious Mind

Practical critical thinking skills begin with stepping outside a negotiator’s comfort zone and embracing diverse perspectives. Negotiators who approach discussions with an open and curious mind become better positioned to identify potential impasses, test assumptions, and consider alternate viewpoints. This mental flexibility allows them to explore creative solutions they may have overlooked due to inflexible thinking processes.

For example, during a contract negotiation, a negotiator employing critical thinking skills might probe deeper into the counterpart’s motivations and constraints rather than only focusing on the items they are discussing, which might be red herrings whose intent is to misdirect the negotiation. By being proactive, negotiators can uncover creative win-win scenarios that address everyone’s hidden and core needs.

Step 2: Assess Information with Objectivity and Reasoning

Analyzing information without bias or preconceived notions is crucial to making better judgments. Critical thinking necessitates scrutinizing information impartially and rationally, free from personal prejudices or preconceptions. Negotiators who can discern factual information from emotional elements, evaluate data for accuracy and relevance, and arrive at sound conclusions are better equipped to make educated decisions.

For example, during client negotiations, an individual with strong critical thinking skills might objectively evaluate market trends, industry standards, and performance metrics to determine a fair and justifiable deal. This evidence-driven approach fortifies their stance and helps mitigate emotional tensions that could derail negotiations.

Step 3: Identify and Address Underlying Assumptions

Negotiators build their negotiation plans off of assumptions. They rely on their explicit and implicit beliefs about the other negotiator’s motivations, intentions, and constraints. Critical thinking allows negotiators to detect and address hypotheses to test their validity.

For instance, a critical thinker might challenge the assumption that the other negotiator’s cultural values are inherently compatible with theirs, implying that the negotiation should proceed smoothly. By probing deeper into each entity’s values, leadership styles, and other pertinent variables, they can uncover potential areas of misalignment and develop strategies to address them proactively.

Step 4: Forestall Consequences – Develop Contingencies

For a negotiator to become effective, they should be able to foresee likely consequences and contingencies. Critical thinking fortifies this process by inspiring negotiators to consider various scenarios, assess the risks and rewards of each potential conclusion, and generate appropriate contingency.

To highlight the point, during a complex negotiation, a critical thinker might anticipate potential delays, possible impasses, and tactics the opposing negotiator might employ. By addressing these potential circumstances before their occurrence and establishing clear risk strategies to mitigate negative consequences, they can protect their interests and ensure a smoother negotiation flow.

Perils of Lacking Critical Thinking Skills

If negotiators believe they are exempt from the adverse effects of not possessing critical thinking skills, think again. Many circumstances will thwart a negotiator’s efforts from reaching a successful outcome by:  

1. Becoming susceptible to false reasoning that hampers good judgment

2. Making decisions based on insufficient or faulty information

3. Missing vital details, subtleties, and possible risks

4. Being more focused on instant gains while overlooking possible negative implications

5. Failing to adapt to altering situations during negotiations

6. Missing opportunities to anticipate and mitigate risky situations

7. Possessing a lack of clearness, self-assuredness, and inability to commit to optimum outcomes

As stated, those are a few negative consequences that can befall a negotiator who fails to embrace critical thinking. Do not let your lack of ability to enhance this skill escape you.

How to Improve Your Critical Thinking Skills:

1. Seven Whys: This involves repeatedly asking “why?” You are attempting to uncover the root of the problem or challenge. Start with the problem in the negotiation, asking yourself why it occurred. Continue asking why to each response until you uncover the underlying reason. That helps break down assumptions and analyze issues more deeply. You can implement the same process during negotiations. Be mindful of not being perceived as badgering the opposition.

2. Reverse Reasoning: Think about the end point of a successful engagement. Then, consider multiple occurrences that might have happened to deliver you to your successful outcome. That exercise forces you to consider various perspectives, potential roadblocks, and generate new thoughts and ideas.

3. Mind Mapping: Mind mapping is an excellent way a negotiator can visualize their thoughts. In a negotiation, it can assist in shifting one’s paradigm due to the visual imagery it presents, allowing them to see what may have been previously unperceived.

4. Breakdown Components: This aspect entails disassembling more significant parts of a challenge and explaining those segments to clarify the situation better. By gaining a greater understanding, you also test hypotheses that deliver negotiators to a better place in their thought process. 

5. Adopt Counter Position: Flip the script by taking the opposing view. Argue against your position. That will allow you to understand the other negotiator’s perspective, and it may give you a newfound respect for how they see things.


Negotiators who improve their critical thinking skills will enhance their performance and achieve better outcomes. They will become capable of navigating intricate situations, nurturing an open, curious mindset, evaluating information objectively instead of subjectively, and detecting subliminal concepts while considering different perspectives and solutions. They will accomplish that because they become better at critical thinking. And everything will be right with the world.

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After reading this article, what are you thinking? I’d like to know. Reach me at Greg@TheMasterNegotiator.com

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