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mutually beneficial agreement

What is a Mutually Beneficial Agreement?

Some negotiation experts would have you believe that a mutually beneficial agreement is one in which each side grabs as much as it can from a finite pot of resources and calls it a day.

This is far from the truth. Negotiators often fail to reach a mutually beneficial agreement when they bring this kind of win-lose mindset to the negotiation table. Rather than working together to increase the size of the overall pie, negotiators end up haggling over a small pie, reducing the chance of achieving win-win negotiation.

This assumption of a fixed pie triggers competitive behavior that bypasses opportunities for collaboration and leaves parties entrenched in an impasse.

To reach a mutually beneficial agreement, negotiators have to work hard to both create new sources of value through collaborative moves and claim as much value as they can.

To create value, you need to learn about the other party’s interests and preferences, through building trust and sharing information and asking questions. Lastly, make multiple equivalent simultaneous offers.

Business negotiators tend to present one offer at a time. If the offer is rejected, they learn very little new information that would help them to move forward. A better approach is to craft three offers that are different across issues but equally appealing to you. The other party may reject all three of the offers, but is likely to communicate which one she likes best—and put you back on a track toward a mutually beneficial agreement.

When parties can trade on their preferences across different issues, they reduce the need to haggle over price and percentages.

To learn more about mutually beneficial agreements and become a better dealmaker and leader, download our FREE special report,Negotiation Skills: Negotiation Strategies and Negotiation Techniques to Help You Become a Better Negotiator, from the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School.

The following items are tagged mutually beneficial agreement:

Negotiating the Healthcare Industry

Posted by & filed under Teaching Negotiation.

Teach Your Students to Negotiate One of the Most Critical Global Industries With the emergence of a devastating global pandemic, the acute importance of the healthcare industry to community welfare has become even more apparent. Healthcare is one of the biggest economies in the world, with billions of dollars spent on treatments and associated research. There … Read More 

Managing the “negotiator’s dilemma”

Posted by & filed under Negotiation Skills.

Consider the following two perspectives on negotiation:

Following the finalization of a new trade agreement among Canada, Mexico, and the United States, Enrique Peña Nieto, then the president of Mexico, said on September 3, 2018, that the agreement “achieves what we proposed at the start: a win-win-win deal.” On July 1, 2019, U.S. president Donald Trump told … Read More 

10 Negotiation Failures

Posted by & filed under Negotiation Skills.

Here’s a list of some of the most notable negotiation flops – from deals that were over before they started, to those that were botched at the table, to those that proved disastrous well after the ink had dried. … Read More 

Negotiate Business Contracts that Last

Posted by & filed under Business Negotiations.

After engaging in the complex process of business negotiation, business negotiators are often happy to pass off the technicalities of deal drafting to their attorneys. Unfortunately, this handoff is prone to errors. Vague, contradictory, and missing deal terms are not uncommon, and they can lead to serious problems during the implementation stage, according to Harvard … Read More 

Video: Setting the Stage for Productive Negotiations

Posted by & filed under Daily, Resources, Videos.

Understanding how to arrange the meeting space is a key aspect of preparing for productive negotiations. In this video, Guhan Subramanian, professor at Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School, discusses a real world example of how seating arrangements can influence a negotiator’s success. The discussion was held in his negotiation training workshop “Setting the … Read More 

Should You Appeal to Their Sense of Sympathy?

Posted by & filed under Negotiation Skills.

Imagine that you are about to enter into a negotiation. Unbeknown to your counterpart, the stakes are particularly high because of difficulties you are suffering behind the scenes. Maybe your organization is struggling financially and needs a break to stay in the black. Or you are planning to ask for a raise to help cover … Read More 

Trying to Come to Terms with an Adversary?

Posted by & filed under Business Negotiations.

A string of recent deals between longtime opponents could give you the inspiration you need to reach agreement with your most difficult partners. Republicans and Democrats. North and South Korea. The United States and China. All of these pairs have a reputation for conflict, rivalry, and impasse. Yet despite their ongoing differences, each pair recently managed … Read More 

Negotiation Skills in Business Communication: Status Anxiety

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Negotiation Skills in Business Communication: Campeau Corporation and Federated Department Stores Sometimes in negotiation we are forced to deal not only with the issues on the table but also with concerns about status. One famous instance took place in the late 1980s, when Robert Campeau, head of the Campeau Corporation and then one of Fortune magazine’s “50 … Read More 

Learning from the deficit-reduction talks

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Does anyone down there know how to cut a deal?” Senate Republican Mitch McConnell said to Vice President Joe Biden. It was Sunday, December 30, 2012, the day before the “fiscal cliff ” deadline, and the minority leader had phoned Biden out of a sense of desperation, report Patrick O’Connor and Peter Nicholas in the … Read More 

Dealing With Constituents

Posted by & filed under Business Negotiations, Daily.

Adapted from “Dealing with Backstage Negotiators,” first published in the Negotiation newsletter. Negotiated agreements sometimes go off the rails in the final hour because one side caves in to a constituent’s wishes despite having the authority to make a commitment. Because people tend to approach negotiations with an “us versus them” mentality, they may succumb to … Read More 

Pharma talks

Posted by & filed under Business Negotiations, Daily.

The PON Clearinghouse offers hundreds of role simulations, from two-party, single-issue negotiations to complex multi-party exercises.  The following role simulation is a three-party, multi-issue contract negotiation among representatives for an HMO and two pharmaceutical companies over the purchase of a new antidepressant drug. SCENARIO: Hopkins HMO is the largest independent managed health care organization in the … Read More