3 Relationship-Building Negotiation Behaviors

By Alex Moskov December 3, 2020 | 6 min read

In order to be successful in business, it is important to establish healthy relationships with players in and around your industry. When negotiating deals, this can prove to be difficult if you aren’t using effective negotiation behaviors.

While it might take a few months or even years in a negotiation-heavy role to realize the value of long-term relationships, understanding the difference between one-off negotiations and relationship-focused negotiations is enormous. Of course, our shift to remote work over the past year also puts a strain on this learning curve.

During initial negotiations with a new party, take time to establish rapport and get to know the other party. What are their wants? What are their underlying needs? What negotiables does this party tend to value most? 

Once the first successful deal has been reached and relationship-building is well underway, subsequent negotiations should be more predictable and straightforward. Plus, any lingering needs that were uncovered in the first negotiation can serve as ammunition for creative solutions in the future. 

However, there is not only a fairly substantial time commitment in order to learn about the other party, but if not done skillfully, you may not even get to build that critical rapport that leads to a potential long-term relationship. That’s why it’s crucial to master these negotiation relationship behaviors. 

The Negotiation Behaviors

Before we jump into the relationship-focused behaviors, let’s go over how they fit into the overall scope of negotiation behaviors. There are five negotiation behaviors: 

Self-Interest Behaviors:

  • Make demands
  • Make trades

Relationship Behaviors:

  • Ask open questions,
  • Test and summarize, 
  • Propose conditionally

All five of these negotiation behaviors should be used to guide the negotiation along, especially during those seemingly uncomfortable impasse moments. However uneasy negotiation impasses may feel, if navigated effectively, they can lead to a creative breakthrough that helps get the negotiation closer to a deal, and more importantly, get you more of what you want.  

However, the three relationship behaviors will not only help nudge the current negotiation towards a favorable outcome, but they’ll also help establish a potentially fruitful long-term negotiation that lasts far beyond the scope of a single deal.

Ask Open Questions:

Asking open questions helps to reduce the other party’s frustration, as well as gather important information concerning the negotiation.


  • Not closed: Open Questions = “Who, What, When, Where, Why, Tell me about…” 
  • One at a time: Do not ask too many questions in a row. This might feel like an interrogation
  • Non-judgmental: Questions don’t have an edge or any negative “music.” They are not used to scold or critique. The goal of an open question is to help the other party relax and open up. 
  • Listen carefully: Don’t interrupt. Use reflection or silence to encourage a thorough response.
    Ask clarifying questions: Help the other party (and yourself) by ensuring his/her answer is clear.

Use  open questions when you need to: 

  • Draw out or gain information
  • Uncover underlying needs
  • Involve the other party

Open questions sound like:  Who, what, when, where, why, tell me more, etc. For example: 

  • How did you arrive at that cost estimate?
  • What are your reasons for your position?
  • Under what conditions would you be willing to make a commitment?

Test and Summarize:

Testing and summarizing is a critical behavior because it demonstrates your sincere interest in a discussion. Simply adopting this behavior forces you to listen carefully. 


  • Avoid “Yes, but…”: Make sure the other party knows you understand fully before offering your own thoughts. 
  • Be sincere: Demonstrate the importance of what you are summarizing with positive “music and dance.” 
  • Don’t embellish or manipulate: Summarize the other party’s true meaning without driving your own agenda. 

Use testing and summarizing when you need to:

  • Build mutual trust and enhance the relationship
  • Help make others feel they are understood
  • Confirm areas of agreement and disagreement

Testing and summarizing sounds like: simple summarization of a concrete statement or idea. For example: 

  • So what you are saying is ____. Do I have that right?
  • If I understand your viewpoint, you feel ____. Is that correct?
  • It looks like we agree on XYZ, and still have to resolve ABC. Would you agree?

Propose Conditionally:

Proposing conditionally allows you to stay in the tension to see if you can come up with creative ideas. 


  • Make tentative: Think of this as just a suggestion to see if the idea will be positively received. 
  • Non-specific: This is not the time to be specific. You are just generally trying to understand if there is value in your idea or to elicit alternatives. 

Propose conditionally when you need to:

  • Get people thinking creatively
  • Generate alternate solutions, negotiables, options, etc.
  • Break impasses

Proposing conditionally sounds like: a hypothetical proposal with the goal of registering intent or exploring ideas. For example: 

  • What if we could find a way to ____? Would that be of value to you?
  • What if we could speed up the payment schedule?
  • What if I could quantify the results achieved in the field test?

Final Thoughts

By learning and implementing the three relationship behaviors, you’ll have utilized a highly effective means of keeping a negotiation in that healthy tension that beckons creative solutions. However, simply knowing the three relationship behaviors will still leave your negotiation arsenal incomplete. This is why it’s important to also study the two remaining self-interest oriented negotiation behaviors, too. But, that’s another blog.


One of the first steps to becoming a master negotiator is to learn 5 key negotiation behaviors and how they work within the 3D Negotiation Model to your benefit.
The main goal of using negotiation tactics by a customer is to fundamentally alter the negotiation in the customer’s favor. Negotiation tactics are tricky for a reason but can be handled with ease...

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