The 5 Negotiation Behaviors You Need to Master

By Alex Moskov September 14, 2021 | 7 min read

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 Negotiation Model hypothesizes that there are three individual negotiation dimensions that play off each other to ensure an end result with the best possible results for yourself and the company you’re representing.

RED BEAR's negotiation model triangle contains the Collaborative, Competitive, and Creative Dimensions. Unlike the Bermuda Triangle, exploring the Negotiation Triangle is where you can find great treasures.

The Competitive Dimension focuses on your self-interest and that of the party you are representing. This dimension often focuses on a single or small set of concrete negotiables, like money or payment terms. At its extreme, the Competitive Dimension leads to a zero-sum “win-lose” mentality, where every win you get comes at the cost of the other party, which isn’t ideal to build long-term relationships.

The Collaborative Dimension focuses on facilitating communication in order to build a productive long-term relationship. Through collaboration and by searching for multiple negotiables, negotiators are able to open the playing field and build rapport. The Collaborative Dimension seeks mutually satisfactory outcomes for all parties in the negotiation. At its negative extremes, collaboration might end up sacrificing otherwise achievable wins for the sake of appeasing all parties and getting the deal.

The Collaborative and Competitive dimensions act as healthy antagonists to each other and create a productive tension that leads to the third dimension, the Creative dimension. You’ve likely experienced this tension before – it often feels like an uneasy knot in your stomach whenever the opposing party puts their foot down, makes a hard counter, or otherwise signals an impasse. Expert negotiators are able to take this tension and transform it into the momentum that leads to a successful deal.

The Creative Dimension focuses on breaking through deadlock and trying to discover even better solutions that would otherwise be left unexplored. Creativity is usually what sets expert and average negotiators apart.


5 Negotiation Behaviors to Balance Tension

Now, in theory, the Three Dimensions are fairly easy to understand. However, actually executing them properly requires a little extra education and polish. That’s where the Five Negotiation Behaviors come in. These negotiation behaviors align themselves along either the Competitive or Collaborative sides and should be used as the situation calls for it to lead to that Creative Breakthrough that punctuates excellent deals.

The five negotiation behaviors are:

  • make demands
  • make trades
  • ask open questions
  • test and summarize
  • propose conditionally

The Self-Interest Negotiation Behaviors: Making Demands and Making Trades

Make Demands

Making demands and making trades are the two competitive negotiation behaviors, and they’re skillful tools to use when your self-interest is threatened.

Making demands is best done with simple declarative sentences starting with “I” and setting a time limit, positioning your self-interest, and maintaining control. For example, “I need you to guarantee two-day delivery effective immediately before we can get the contract to legal.”

The most effective demands are:

  • Specific: A demand should be clear about what you want, need, or expect (by Tuesday, 20%, a meeting with the department head, etc.)
  • Non-judgmental: A strong demand is clear and direct, but not aggressive, hostile, or hurtful. Skilled negotiators avoid making negative personal judgments.
  • Strong: We communicate demands with our words, our tone of voice and body language. When they are not aligned, we send a different message than we intend.
  • Concise: Avoid weakening your demand with explanations. Instead, use silence after your demand. Let the other party respond first.
  • Repeated as necessary: Some people don’t respond to your first demand. Repeat your demand until they acknowledge it.

Demands should be used when you need to add clarity about what you want, need or expect, need to raise a difficult issue, set a boundary, or simply show conviction.

Demands usually sound like “I want, I don’t want, I expect, I’ve got to have, I would like.” For example:

  • I want a clear definition of your quality expectations.
  • I need you to give me 10 days lead time.
  • I expect that report by the end of the day.
  • I have to have a decision by Monday.

I don’t want this specific clause in the final contract.

Make Trades

Naturally, only making demands will lead you to an impasse. That’s where making trades comes in. You make trades when you want to break an impasse or gain closure in an element of the negotiation and move it forward. For example, “We’ll guarantee two-day delivery if you commit to $100,000 a month in minimum orders.”

The most effective ways to make trades is to ensure your requests are:

  • Two-way: Make sure you are exchanging value by asking for something in return.
  • Specific: Be clear about what you are offering and asking for. Both sides of the trade should be observable, measurable, or quantifiable.

Trades are direct ways of saying “I’ll do X if you do Y.” For example,

  • I will get you the information you requested if you will give me a copy of the final report.
  • I will increase my order by 2% if you will accept my current unit price offer.
  • If you keep that wording in the contract, we will not commit to you as a single source for this part.

The Relationship Negotiation Behaviors: Ask Open Questions, Test and Summarize, and Propose Conditionally

The Relationship negotiation behaviors seek to fortify a long-term relationship while simultaneously guiding the negotiation towards a favorable deal for the parties involved. These negotiation behaviors seek to build rapport and get everyone on the same page.

Ask Open Questions

Asking open questions tends to get the other party to open up more and share information that could prove to be valuable if the time to find creative solutions comes. These questions aim to elicit real information, and not just simple binary “yes” or “no” responses. A good open-ended question not only finds good intel but it also uncovers the underlying motivation and true needs of the other party. For example, “Just so I get an idea, is there a reason fast shipping is a priority for you?”

Good Open Questions are:

  • Not closed: Open Questions usually start with “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.

Open Questions sound like:

  • 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 helps clarify your understanding and confirm areas of agreement and disagreement with the other party. For example,  “Let me make sure I understand correctly, if we spend more than $100,000 per month with you guys, we’ll receive two-day shipping at no additional cost on all orders?”

Testing and Summarizing is critical because it not only helps create touch points for the discussion, but it forces you to listen carefully, which showcases your interest to the other party.

  • 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.

Testing and Summarizing sound like:

  •  So, what you are saying is ____. Do I have that right?
  • If I understand your viewpoint, you feel ____. Is that correct?

For example:

  • It looks like we agree on XYZ, and still have to resolve ABC. Would you agree?

Propose Conditionally

The final relationship behavior is proposing conditionally. This behavior is used to break icy stagnation, get the creative brain juice flowing, and help reveal creative solutions from a different angle.  A conditional proposal is generally phrased as a hypothetical question with the goal of inciting thought and dialogue. For example, “What if we only order $50,000 of goods per month but still need the two-day shipping?”

Proposing Conditionally helps you to stay in the tension and see if you can come up with creative ideas.

  • Tentative: Think of this as a tentative 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.

Proposing Conditionally sounds like:
• What if we could find a way to ____? Would that be of value to you?

For example:

  • What if we could speed up the payment schedule?
  • What if I could quantify the results achieved in the field test?

Final Thoughts

When both the competitive and collaborative dimensions work together, a healthy tension emerges between the self-interests of the parties and the desire of both to maintain their relationship. This way, the chances of a truly creative and unanticipated approach to a mutually profitable settlement increase dramatically.

By developing a high proficiency to use these 5 negotiation behaviors in their appropriate situations, you’ll be able to transcend into the upper echelon of negotiation. These negotiation behaviors will require some on-the-ground experience to really get a feeling for their utility in a live negotiation, so be sure to practice.


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