“Problem-Solving Advice How To Use Genuine Strategies To Improve Negotiation Skills” – Negotiation Tip of the Week

“To engage in problem-solving better, you must understand the problem and  its source.” -Greg Williams, The Master Negotiator & Body Language Expert (click to Tweet)

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“Problem-Solving Advice – How To Use Genuine

Strategies To Improve Negotiation Skills”

People don’t realize they’re always negotiating.

When you engage in problem-solving during negotiations, do you sometimes feel the other negotiator does not have your best interest in mind? In the U.S., some car salespeople initially offer limited options to prospective customers. They do so to steer a potential buyer down a path so the buyer will decide quickly on making a purchase. That is the salesperson’s preemption to problem-solving – control the situation to avert problems.

Genuine problem-solving entails seeking outcomes both parties can agree upon and be satisfied with, not gimmicks or limiting strategies that can make one feel manipulated.

Since negotiation skills are crucial in resolving disputes, making deals, and achieving common goals, no matter your endeavor, good negotiation skills are essential in any professional or personal setting. And to have good negotiation skills, one must have problem-solving abilities to enhance their negotiation efforts. The absence of problem-solving abilities will disadvantage anyone during negotiations.

What follows are ways to acquire and increase those skills.

Using What-if Statements For Problem-Solving

Over the years, I have written about the value of what-if strategies in negotiations. For one, it allows negotiators to test a premise without obligating themselves to an unacceptable outcome. And it can be an excellent aid when probing problem-solving solutions during negotiations. How can it be used in this manner:

1. By freeing negotiators’ minds to explore far-fetched proposals that might reside outside of what would typically be acceptable (e.g., what if you could create an outcome that both of us would accept, what would that look like?)

2. Used as a subliminal gateway allowing one negotiator to supplant thoughts in the opposition’s mind – The offering negotiator might accomplish that by suggesting a highly sought-after outcome to the opposition, but one they can only receive if they concede on a minor or significant point. The what-if, in that case, suggests that the offering negotiator is open to exploring the suggestion as a possible way to resolve an issue.

3. Negotiators can fuse disjointed thoughts and ideas to uncover unexposed opportunities due to a possible solution’s stand-alone feasibility (e.g., I know it may sound far-fetched, but what if we considered ‘a’ and ‘z’ as one. Might that work?)

What if you could use what-if statements more effectively in negotiations? Would that improve your problem-solving abilities? That is the type of question you can ask to gain more value from what-if thinking and your problem-solving skills.

Brainstorming With A Twist

Most negotiators are familiar with the concept of brainstorming during negotiations. Participants sometimes toss out uninterrupted ideas to gather as many thoughts towards a possible beneficial outcome. Negotiation participants may forward one or several ideas and invite responses in other situations.

While these interactions may benefit the negotiation process, depending on where negotiators are, they may consider acting if they know nothing about negotiations. Negotiators might frame that as the lack-of-negotiation-knowledge perspective.

By suspending their negotiation beliefs, negotiators can explore thoughts outside their knowledge base; since some ideas might include biases, suspending biases would open a path to expanded thinking, preventing those thought blockers from hampering brainstorming exercises. Thus, by freeing their minds of such preferences, negotiating partners may arrive at solutions that otherwise may have escaped them.

When you get stuck in a negotiation and find that traditional brainstorming is not producing the results you seek, try the lack-of-negotiation-knowledge perspective as a problem-solving tactic. The outcome might surprise you and be beneficial to the negotiations.

Presenting Evidence In Problem-Solving

How do you know your evidence is valid? That is a question that one negotiator might ask the other during attempts at problem-solving. When negotiators hear that question, they should not become alarmed.

Instead, welcome it as a sign that the opposition is seeking to understand the perspective of the presenting negotiator. And that means the questioning negotiator is open to being swayed by the initiator’s points.

So, how can a negotiator engage in better problem-solving through evidence?

1. Present persuasive evidence per the other negotiator’s understanding of it. Using phrases, jargon, and examples that are difficult to grasp will detract from this goal.  

2. Present evidence aligned with how the other negotiator understands and processes information. For example, if the opposing negotiator is a sequential thinker, present evidence sequentially.

3. Seek feedback per the opposition’s acceptance of each piece of your evidence to build a crescendo of final approval. To accomplish this, do not pass a point where the opposing negotiator vehemently opposes the offered evidence.


Problem-solving techniques are crucial in successful negotiations. Thus, identifying problems, analyzing them, and finding solutions is essential in any successful negotiation. Suffice it to say, approach negotiations as a problem-solving exercise rather than a competition. The goal should be to find a solution that works for both parties. Doing so will increase your problem-solving, negotiation skills, and negotiation outcomes. And everything will be right with the world.

Remember, you’re always negotiating!

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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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