“New Priming Advice This Is How To Increase Negotiation Skills” – Negotiation Tip of the Week

“Skilled negotiators use priming to strategically improve their position, while unskilled negotiators get maneuvered by it.” -Greg Williams, The Master Negotiator & Body Language Expert

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Do you know how priming occurs, how to use it, or the value of it in negotiations? Have you been manipulated by negotiators who primed you to move according to their will instead of your own, and were you unaware of it?

This article delivers insights into the art of priming, how to leverage it in negotiations, cues to observe as a negotiator moves throughout the negotiation process, and priming techniques you can use to increase your negotiation skills. 

Benefits of Priming in Negotiations

In negotiations, subliminally guiding your opponent’s thought process can be very effective. Priming, a psychological technique that involves exposing someone to specific stimuli to influence their subsequent thoughts, decisions, and behaviors, can be a powerful tool in any negotiator’s toolkit. By tactically embedding kernels of thought, you can prime the opposition to think and move in the direction of your desire. That will increase your probability of reaching a more favorable outcome.

Power of Language

One way to prime the other negotiator is through the language you use. Word choice controls their perspective and perception, which shapes their thought processes.

For example, if you are negotiating a business deal, you might prime the opposition using phrases that cite expertise, competitive advantage, etc., in the words of that particular individual. Reflecting someone’s words echoes in that individual’s mind because those words sound like their own, which is what the power of language entails – using words to implant ideas in their mind.

Priming via Visual Cues

During negotiations, good negotiators employ visual cues to enhance their talks. You can use visual cues to prime the opposition, too. So, how might that appear?

One thing to observe is how visual cues impact you – you walk into a nicely appointed area and smile. The aesthetics of the environment primed you for what follows. Thus, by using visual cues, you can prime others based on the mood you wish to create in them and knowing the stimulus that will set their perception in motion.   

Storytelling Priming

Priming the other negotiator through storytelling is another compelling tool you may employ to sway their perspective. You might include aspects of language and visual cues that align with the opposition’s viewpoints to enhance the probability of your story swaying that individual’s opinions. Be sure to paint a vivid mental image, colorful or bleak, based on the emotions you want the target to experience.

Prime to Trigger Social Proof

Social proof is a psychological mental crutch people lean on when unsure about an action to take. In such situations, they seek what is typical based on the norms of others with whom they compare themselves.

To trigger the opposition using social proof, highlight the success of others who accepted similar deals or proposals to your offer. For added value, you might mention negative occurrences that befell those who passed on it. Doing so will prime your opponent to perceive your offer more favorably from two perspectives – confirming they are following the crowd by accepting it and increasing their fear of adopting the wrong position if they do not.

Priming Through Anchoring

Anchoring occurs in every negotiation and at multiple points throughout the talks. Depending on your skill level as a negotiator, you can:

For Skilled Negotiators

1. Initiate/prime the opposition by framing their expectations about what to expect from the encounter. That can set boundaries on how high you will go to meet their requests and when you will exit the negotiation. 

2. When positioned at a higher skill level than your counterpart, you can ask for their expectations.

While priming effects will have occurred in both scenarios, you can better position yourself in scenario number two – asking for their expectations because that will convey they had input into your offer. Compare that to anchoring them to your position in scenario number one – framing their expectations; that becomes the subtle difference in their perception and your control of it.

For Less Skilled Negotiators

Be mindful of when someone offers you a proposal per what they may have done before extending it. Did they do, say, or cause something pleasant to occur? These are the thoughts you should pose to yourself.

Anchoring can occur long before negotiators realize someone primed them to adopt a particular action. It also appears when positions shift throughout a negotiation, which is another reason to heighten your awareness when you negotiate against a more skilled negotiator.  

Best Times to Prime

I have suggested how and when negotiators might use priming techniques in negotiations. The following are additional thoughts for consideration:

1. Before Negotiation

People lacking strong negotiation skills are unaware they are always negotiating. Thus, you can more easily prime them using one of the mentioned methods. Then, once the negotiation commences, you will have molded their outlook and expectations.

2. During Negotiation

When you present new offers or counteroffers, prime your opponent by strategically using anchoring techniques or language that aligns with your goals. Position them so they are perceived to be in the other negotiator’s best interest. Do so per what you expect of them once you reach a deal. That will prime them to stay better abiding by the covenants of the agreement.


Priming occurs in every negotiation in one form or another and in degrees within those forms. Thus, when you negotiate, to improve your negotiation skills, the outcome, and how well the parties abide by the agreement, you must become more proficient in the use of priming. When you do, a brighter world of better-negotiated outcomes will reward you for your efforts. 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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