Adapted from an article by John Fiske

Step #1: Ask yourself, “What do I want?”

This beginning is by far the most difficult part of negotiating, for many people. “How can I possibly know what I want when I have never looked out for myself before?” Yet if you do not ask and answer this question, the negotiation process has  no foundation and crumbles. You can’t negotiate for something when you don’t know what it is. So all the succeeding steps assume you have figured out what  you want and are ready to tell the other person.

Step #2: Tell the other person what you want.

You check with the other person to be sure they listened, heard, and understand what you want.  Having them repeat  what you want, to your satisfaction, may be useful for you both. At least you’ll feel heard, and that’s good.

Step #3: The other person says to you what (s)he wants.

The other person checks with you to be sure you listened, heard and understand what they want. You may need to repeat what you heard them say until they are satisfied that you understand.

Step #4: Ask yourself, “How big a deal is this for me?”

Often, there is no conflict between what you and the other person want. However, if what you want conflicts with what the other person wants ask yourself, “How big a deal is this for me?”

If the issue being negotiated is not a big deal for one of you, that person should say so.  If the issue is not a big deal for either of you, you both need to figure out who gets what, always making sure you are still being fair  to yourself.

If the issue is a big deal for both of you, you need to separate yourselves from the problem and acknowledge, “We have a problem.” It is not your problem or their problem, it is OUR problem. “What are WE going to do about OUR problem.”

Step #5: Explore alternatives.

Ask yourselves, “Can we reframe the question so it becomes less of a win lose situation for us?” Brainstorm with ideas being suggested by each of you with the understanding that no idea is crazy. Do not criticize any ideas because it shuts down the negotiation process. All alternatives should be subject to the first three negotiation steps. Methodically discuss and explore every idea suggested.

If none of these approaches succeed for both of you, here are useful questions:

  1. What are we arguing about?
  2. What are your concerns?
  3. Why?
  4. Why do you want _________?
  5. Can you think of anything I can do that might be helpful for you?