Learn how to negotiate like a diplomat, think on your feet like an improv performer, and master job offer negotiation like a professional athlete when you download a copy of 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.


negotiation advice

The following items are tagged negotiation advice

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Lawyers & Clients

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Robert H. Mnookin and Susan Hackley An illustration of interviewing and listening techniques appropriate for lawyer-client interviews, featuring Harvard Law School Professor Robert Mnookin … Read More 

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How to Control Your Emotions in Conflict Resolution

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To guard against acting irrationally or in ways that can harm you, authors of Beyond Reason: Using Emotions As You Negotiate Roger Fisher and Daniel Shapiro advise you to take your emotional temperature during a negotiation. Specifically, try to gauge whether your emotions are manageable, starting to heat up, or threatening to boil over. … Read More 

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3-D Negotiation

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David Lax & James Sebenius A path-breaking introduction to the “three dimensions” of complex negotiated deal-making: table tactics, deal design, and the crucial but often overlooked dimension of setup … Read More 

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Conflict Resolution in the Family

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In Lessons in Domestic Diplomacy, the New York Times’ Bruce Feiler, drawing on family conflict resolution negotiation examples in his past, offers a case study of conflict management by focusing on disputes in the home, asking, “how do we break out of negative patterns of conduct and proactively approach problems encountered in our everyday lives?” … Read More 

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Harborco: Role-Play Simulation

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Harborco is a consortium of development, industrial, and shipping concerns that are eager to proceed with the building of a new port, but face hurdles and potential opposition as they advance through the licensing process. The Federal Licensing Agency would like to see them work with other stakeholders to develop a project that is acceptable … Read More 

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Must-Read Negotiation Books for 2018

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The year 2017 offered plenty of negotiation hits and misses in the realms of government, business, and beyond. To avoid failed negotiations in 2018, politicians, business leaders, and the rest of us would be wise to explore the following recent negotiation books, which can help steer us through our most difficult negotiating dilemmas: … Read More 

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When a Job Offer is “Nonnegotiable”

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Question: I am in my final year of business school and starting to prepare for job interviews. I have heard many of the organizations that recruit on campus are not open to negotiating specific terms of employment. Rather, they offer everyone roughly the same deal terms. To what extent should I respect such conventions versus … Read More 

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Win Win Negotiation: Different Cultures, Shared Meals

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From movie moguls hammering out film deals in Los Angeles to publishers and agents assessing each other’s tastes in New York, the “power lunch” has become a familiar institution. Across the globe, negotiators often do business over shared meals, whether out of convenience or as part of a concerted effort to get to know one … Read More 

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Diplomatic Negotiations: The Surprising Benefits of Conflict and Teamwork at the Negotiation Table

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As the US presidential primary season heats up for both parties, it helps to take a look back at the 2008 US presidential election and the win-win coalition forged between Barack Obama and his then-rival, Hillary Clinton. As this example demonstrates, if carefully managed, disagreements can lead to better results than you might expect. … Read More 

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Case Studies: Examples of Conflict Resolution

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Conflict resolution is the process of resolving a dispute or a conflict by meeting at least some of each side’s needs and addressing their interests. Conflict resolution sometimes requires both a power-based and an interest-based approach, such as the simultaneous pursuit of litigation (the use of legal power) and negotiation (attempts to reconcile each party’s … Read More 

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10 Popular Business Negotiation Articles

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Ten Popular Business Negotiation Articles

Here are ten popular business negotiation articles on the Program on Negotiation website. Drawn from a variety of negotiation case studies as well as negotiation research, the following articles present negotiation examples in real life and offer strategies for engaging in integrative negotiations aimed at creating win-win scenarios for each party at the negotiation table. 1. … Read More 

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Case Study of Conflict Management: To Resolve Disputes and Manage Conflicts, Assume a Neutral 3rd Party Role

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In their book Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most (Penguin Putnam, 2000), authors Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen tell us how to engage in the conversations in our professional or personal lives that make us uncomfortable by examining a case study of conflict management. Tough, honest conversations are critical for managers, … Read More 

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Lessons for Business Negotiators: Negotiation Techniques from International Diplomacy

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Executives rarely view themselves as diplomats engaged in international diplomacy but business negotiators often find the two fields share negotiation skills and negotiation techniques. Rightly or wrongly, diplomacy evokes images of frivolity – days spent wandering exotic capitals, nights spent cruising embassy cocktail parties. … Read More 

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How to Negotiate with Difficult People: International Negotiation, and a Refusal to Communicate

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Business negotiators sometimes face the difficult question of whether to negotiate with someone they believe to be immoral, untrustworthy, or otherwise undesirable as a negotiating partner. In his book Bargaining with the Devil: When to Negotiate, When to Fight (Simon & Schuster, 2011), Program on Negotiation chair Robert Mnookin offers negotiation advice on the complex … Read More 

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Negotiation Advice: When to Make the First Offer in Negotiation

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negotiation advice - when to make the first offer in negotiation

When or when not to make the first offer in negotiations is a question many expert negotiators ask themselves when approaching business negotiations, real estate transactions, or even interpersonal negotiations with friends and family. In this article drawn from negotiation research, we offer negotiating skills and negotiation tips for when, and when not, to make … Read More 

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Take your BATNA to the Next Level

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If your current negotiation reaches an impasse, what’s your best outside option? Most seasoned negotiators understand the value of evaluating their BATNA, or best alternative to a negotiated agreement, a concept that Roger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton introduced in their seminal book, Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In (Penguin, 1991, second … Read More 

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The High Cost of Bad Advice at the Negotiation Table

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If you’re thinking about buying a house, one of your first moves may be to choose a real estate agent who can advise you through the process. If you want a big-name publisher to buy your book, you probably will try to sign on an experienced literary agent as your counselor and advocate. Less formally, … Read More 

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Dispute Resolution in Job Negotiations: Repairing a Work Relationship

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On October 15, 2012, Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit walked into the office of the bank’s chairman, Michael E. O’Neill, expecting a routine meeting and perhaps some words of praise. The day before, Citigroup had released a favorable earnings report that suggested the bank was beginning to rebound from the financial crisis. Citi had received a … Read More 

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Top 10 Celebrity Negotiations of 2015

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Here are the top 10 celebrity negotiations from the year 2015. From integrative bargaining strategies to building bridges with counterparts in contentious talks, these negotiation scenarios demonstrate the effectiveness of collaborative, win-win negotiation tactics. … Read More 

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In Business Negotiations, Capitalize on a Right of First Refusal

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in business negotiations capitalize on a right of first refusal

As dealmakers look for more sophisticated ways to reduce risks and increase returns, a right of first refusal—a contractual guarantee that one side can match any offer that the other side later receives—has become a common and useful tool to add to your business negotiation skills.

in business negotiations capitalize on a right of first refusal

As dealmakers look for more sophisticated ways to reduce risks and increase returns, a right of first refusal—a contractual guarantee that one side can match any offer that the other side later receives—has become a common and useful tool to add to your business negotiation skills.

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When the mergers-and-acquisitions (M&A) boom began in 1993, many deals simply required the seller to let the buyer know if a “superior proposal” came along. By the late 1990s, buyers were demanding—and receiving—more than this: an exclusive negotiating period of several days, during which they could decide whether to match or improve upon another bidder’s offer. In current business negotiations, rights of first refusal, also known as matching rights or rights of first offer, are being rapidly incorporated into business negotiations at all levels and in many industries.

In the typical right of first refusal, the grantor gives the right holder the right to buy an asset on the same terms that the grantor would receive from any other bona fide, prospective bidder, otherwise known as the third party.

Suppose, for example, that a private company is negotiating an equity infusion from an investor in exchange for a 20% ownership stake and a set on the board. To preserve its stability, the company conditions the deal on a right of first refusal: before the investor can sell his stake to someone else, the company can buy it back at the negotiated price. The investor accepts the deal, and the company gets its equity.

Now suppose that two years have passed since the company (the right holder) and the investor (the grantor) signed their deal. The investor now wants to liquidate his investment. One potential buyer offers to purchase the 20% interest for $3.4 million. The investor now is required to ask the company, which holds the matching right, if it wants to match the offer. This contractual obligation has important consequences that depend in large part upon the role you play in a negotiation.

Advice for the grantor In negotiation, including a right of first refusal in an agreement can be a classic win-win move. To take a real estate right of first refusal, suppose you’re a landlord negotiating with a prospective tenant. You want to maintain the ability to sell the apartment to someone else in the future, while your prospective tenant wants a commitment to rent the apartment for as long as she wants. The solution might be to offer the tenant a right of first refusal—the power to match any legitimate third-party offer. In this manner, the tenant gains the opportunity to avoid the disruption of a move, and you preserve your own flexibility.

A right of first refusal can also create value through tradeoffs on negotiators’ different expectations. Let’s return to the case of the investor who buys a 20% ownership stake in a private company, and assume that the investor plans to hold the stake for a long time. If the company is not as sure about his commitment, a right of first refusal is cheap for the investor to give and valuable for the company to receive.

Advice for the right holder As the prospective right holder, you should know precisely what a proposed right of first refusal will give you. Many deals that seem to guarantee a right of first refusal are, in fact, murky about the consequences that could arise.

For potential right holders, the most common mistake is to fail to specify what will happen if you choose to match a bid. Will your matching bid call off the contest with the third party or launch a bidding war?

Other details are equally important. How long do you have to decide whether to match an offer? If the duration of the right of first refusal is ambiguous, a third party could short-circuit your right by making an exploding offer with a short fuse. You might fail to match the offer due to time pressure rather than to your unwillingness to pay. The end result is a right of first refusal worth significantly less than you thought.

Advice for third parties What if you’re thinking about making an offer that would trigger a right of first refusal? Returning to the case of the investor with a 20% stake in a company, imagine that you approach the investor about buying him out. When you learn about the company’s right of first refusal, you face a difficult situation. If the company exercises its right of first refusal, you’ve wasted time conducting due diligence and negotiating. If the company doesn’t exercise its right of first refusal, you likely have overpaid. Why? Because the company probably has better information about the true value of the 20% stake than you do. As a result of this information asymmetry, many sophisticated investors avoid deals that trigger a right of first refusal.

Yet the winner’s curse may not apply to you. First, the right holder simply might not be able to match your offer due to a liquidity crunch. Second, you may have just as much or better information about the value of the asset as the right holder. If the right holder doesn’t match your bid, she may not recognize these sources of value. Third, you might bring some special value to the table that the right holder lacks. Try to assess whether any of these three justifications apply before making a bid. If one of them does, you’re ready for business.

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Adapted from “Matching Rights: A Boon to Both Sides,” by Harvard Business School and Harvard Law School professor Guhan Subramanian, first published in the Negotiation newsletter.

When the mergers-and-acquisitions (M&A) boom began in 1993, many deals … Read More 

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Seeking a Win-Win Negotiation? Pass the Chips and Salsa

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From movie moguls hammering out film deals in Los Angeles to publishers and agents assessing each other’s tastes in New York, the “power lunch” has become a familiar institution. Across the globe, negotiators often do business over shared meals, whether out of convenience or as part of a concerted effort to get to know one … Read More 

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Women and Negotiation: Why Women Sometimes Ask for Less

Posted by & filed under Business Negotiations.

The average college­-educated woman earns $713,000 less over the course of her working life than her male counterpart, according to the Coalition of Labor Union Women. What explains this persistent gender gap? Women employees’ awareness that they could be penalized for negotiating assertively on their own behalf is one factor, according to new research from … Read More 

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Negotiating for Continuous Improvement: Offer Ongoing Negotiation Coaching

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How can organizations capitalize on negotiation experience? Through reflective practice: the process of considering the results of each negotiation in light of initial expectations and then discussing what ought to be tried next. While each negotiator must take initiative for reflective practice, to truly learn from experience, most need continual coaching from mentors. … Read More 

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The Darker Side of Perspective Taking

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Many negotiation experts recommend that you try to take the other party’s perspective, particularly when attempting to resolve disputes. Recent research by Nicholas Epley of the University of Chicago and Eugene Caruso and Max Bazerman of Harvard University suggests a dark side to this generally sound negotiation advice. The researchers ran a series of experiments … Read More 

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When we expect selfish behavior

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Adapted from “The Darker Side of Perspective Taking,” first published in the Negotiation newsletter, April 2007. Many negotiation experts recommend that you try to take the other party’s perspective, particularly when attempting to resolve disputes. Research by Nicholas Epley of the University of Chicago and Eugene Caruso and Max Bazerman of Harvard University suggests a dark … Read More 

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Negotiation Advice for the 112th Congress

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Professor Robert Bordone, director of the Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program and Tobias Berkman, Associate of HNMCP, published an article in the Harvard Negotiation Law Review titled Negotiation Advice for the 112th Congress. To read the full article, click here. “There will be many post-mortems in the wake of the historic changes brought about … Read More 

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Think Like a Hostage Negotiator

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Upset by a delay in the delivery of one of your products, a longtime buyer threatens to turn to the media unless you meet his extreme demands. Not only is the relationship in jeopardy, but your company’s reputation seems to be as well. What should you do? Let’s explore another relm of negotiation advice for an … Read More