Answer this question:

If you had to pick a metaphor for negotiations, which would you choose:

A. Going to the Dentist

B. Playing a Game

Your choice here is important–do you see negotiations as necessary evil OR as a fun challenge. It’s time to start thinking about negotiations as a fun challenge. Here’s why:

You can win. You just have to the right tools and mindset.

Can we be your coach? Use this post as your personal negotiation playbook. Why do you need to know how to negotiate?

We’re all negotiators.

Whether you’re trying to buy a car, get a raise, or find bargains at garage sales, you’re constantly trying to score the best deal for yourself. However, not all of us are good negotiators. We were curious why some people have a knack for getting what they want, while others…not so much. So, we gathered the best research to find out what the science has to say.

I want you to win every deal.

Here are five science-backed steps to help you win at negotiations and at life.


Athletes spend most of their time preparing for their games, it takes preparation to be a successful negotiator. These first six steps describe what you need to do to prepare to win big in your negotiations.

Step 1: Believe that You Can Become a Better Negotiator

Good news! Studies show the fact that you’re reading this article means you’re on your way to becoming a great negotiator. Researchers at the University of California Berkeley found that people who believe their negotiation skills can improve with time and learning are more successful that those who think negotiation skills are based on fixed personality traits.

  • Case study: If you’re a shy, socially awkward person and think you’ll never be a good negotiator, it becomes true. However, if you believe you can improve and spend time reading articles like this one and implementing their advice, you’ll learn how to be more successful in negotiations. It’s really that simple.
  • Action step: Read this entire article, save it, and use it to remind yourself that the there’s tons of research proving that you can become a better negotiator.

Step 2: Practice Negotiating with People You Know

How assertive are you in negotiations? Research shows you probably can’t answer that question. A study conducted by Columbia Business School found that “the challenge [of negotiation] is compounded by the fact that people often don’t know how others see their assertiveness.”

Whether you come across as too hot or too cold, you likely think the opposite.

An easy way to overcome this is to practice negotiating with people you know and then ask them what they think of you. For example, try negotiating with your friends to decide who’s in charge of what for your next holiday party or have someone listen while you call to get a better deal on your internet bill. The goal is to find out if you’re too pushy or too passive. Just make sure the people you ask are honest!

  • Case-Study: Let’s say you want to ask your boss for a raise. Ask a friend or family member who has a similar personality type to your boss. Have them role play a meeting with you so you can get practice in asking the hard questions to a real person.
  • Action Step: Schedule one practice session with a friend.

Step 3: Choose a Nice Day to Negotiate

The weather is probably the last thing you think about when preparing for a negotiation but it can play an influential role in your success. Researchers at the University of Southern Brittany analyzed several studies on weather and mood and found that people are more generous on sunny days.

  • Case Study: Say you need to buy new appliances and, since they’re expensive, you plan on negotiating for lower prices. Go shopping on a day with pleasant weather. Chances are both you and the sales rep will be in a more agreeable mood and the extra positivity might inspire them to give you a deal that’s not advertised.
  • Action Step: If you have the flexibility to choose when you negotiate, pick the nicest day of the week.

Step 4: Offer a Favor in Advance

A study conducted by Santa Clara University found that people who received an unsolicited favor were more likely help the person who gave it to them than people who didn’t receive a favor.

Analysis of several studies shows that people feel a strong need to reciprocate. If someone gives you something, you feel like you should give them something in return. What this tells us is that one of the most effective ways to get what you want, for example a promotion or salary increase, is to offer your boss a favor prior to making your request. This way when they’ll already feel like they want to help you.

  • Case Study: Let’s say you want to negotiate your work hours so you can spend more time with your kids. Before meeting with your boss, go out of your way to help them in ways that are beyond your job description. During your negotiation, they’ll remember your efforts and want to help you in return.
  • Action Step: Do a favor for someone you plan on negotiating with soon.

Step 5: Have Other Options

Researchers from the University of Southern California and Stanford found individuals who prepared other options prior negotiations had increased bargaining power. Having alternatives prevents you from being dependent on the other person since you can threaten to take your business elsewhere.

  • Case Study: If you’re buying a car, speak to multiple dealers. When you negotiate a lower price on your top choice, you’re more likely to get a better offer if you mention there’s a dealer down the road who’s offering a great discount on a similar car.
  • Action Step: Prior to negotiating with your top pick, get estimates from two to three alternatives that you can bring up if the person you’re negotiating with isn’t being flexible.

Warning: Don’t use this tactic unless you’re content with your alternatives because if the negotiation fails, that’s what you’re getting.


Hi, I'm Vanessa!

Hi, I'm Vanessa!

Lead Investigator, Science of People

I'm the author of the national bestselling book Captivate, creator of People School, and human behavioral investigator in our lab.

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