We teach sharp, effective negotiation so that you can not only communicate your needs (and wants, of course), but also get them met, while also building relationships in the process.

Some folks avoid negotiation at all costs because it leaves a bad taste in their mouths and minds.

  • “I don’t want to be sleazy…”
  • “But negotiation is so manipulative.”
  • “Ugh, I’m just not that assertive/pushy…”
  • “It’s embarrassing! I don’t want to be seen as ‘that person.’”

But here’s the truth:

The same skills that allow you to build relationships make your negotiations

clean, sharp, and professional-level effective.

The other side of that coin is that unscrupulous negotiators, be they sales professionals or narcissistic family members, will pull zero punches and use whatever tactics they can to manipulate you.

By the end of this article, you’ll know what red flags to watch out for so you can call folks on their nonsense and what tactics to use that will keep you firmly planted in integrity and ethical conduct.

If you’re more of an auditory learner, go get the same content on  #59 of The Persuasion Lab Podcast here.

Know and Spot the Negotiation Tricks

Be wary if you notice any of the following come up in the course of a negotiation or conversation. Remember, these apply in boardrooms and living rooms alike. Of course, the response will vary accordingly, but nevertheless, these are the basic red flags to watch out for.

Emotional outbursts and/or walk outs

Poor negotiators will use anger, tears, shouting, or storming out of a room as a ‘tactic.’ Great negotiators recognize this as a bid to manipulate emotions and let the other side have their tantrum (real or manufactured) without getting emotionally involved.


There’s absolutely no shame in knowing where you’re at and where you want to be. In fact, it’s foundational for a great negotiation strategy (more on that here).

Some poor negotiators will use phrases like:

  • “You’re making too much money…”
  • “That’s ridiculous, no one asks for that…”
  • “We’ve never heard that before…”

Let it go in one ear and out the other… more often than not, in my experience, you’re making an appropriate amount of money, many have asked for that, and they absolutely have heard that before and done it that way.

Pretending to be/not be the decision maker

This can be tough to spot, but it is not uncommon for someone on the other side to either say they do have the authority to sign off when they absolutely do not or vice versa.

Your best defense here is research and ample questioning to different members of the opposing side/organization.


Information is power, there’s no doubt about it. To get around this, poor negotiators will use slushy facts, undefined terms, and poorly worded contracts.

Ask questions. Make sure those terms are defined. If time, place, and manner are not clear, beware.

Time pressure

Great negotiations do not need to be rushed. Of course, there’s nuance when it comes to using time and speed of interaction to your advantage, but overall, if you’re hearing it absolutely must happen now!

Step back and ask why.

What happens if you take a day or a week to consider the options, check with a mentor or friend?

The answer is likely that you’re calling their bluff.

Sudden drop off in communication

This is somewhere between a red and yellow flag depending on the situation. At minimum, if there’s a sudden drop off in communication, you should be aware things are assuredly happening on the other side.

It may be a snub in favor of a more attractive option from their perspective or overwhelm or distraction due to other projects.

A great tactic here is to ask “Have you given up on this?”

Gut feeling that something’s “not quite right”

I’m a data guy all the way, and humans are complex social creatures designed to pick up on subtle cues we may or may not be able to articulate.

Our brains are wired to pick up on micro-expressions that last fractions of a second and body language cues. These expressions absolutely cannot be faked, and, even if your frontal cortex isn’t in on the info, your unconscious mind is picking up on that information.

What you do pick up on is the gut feeling of ‘something’s off here.’

If you’re getting a gut feeling that something’s off, pay attention. See if you can drill down and articulate contributing factors. Fin  resources for micro expression and body language recognition here.

How to Be an Exceptional Negotiator

Without a doubt, the best way to negotiate is to leverage your natural strengths. We each have different styles of communicating and, therefore, negotiating. What follows are a few basic tactics that are useful across the board. For individualized support about your negotiation style and how to leverage it to your benefit, join the exclusive community, or take this course.

Ask Questions

The importance and power of this tactic cannot be overstated. Ask questions that require a sentence or more to answer. Open ended questions allow you to glean information and do a deal that enfranchises both parties, leading to greater durability of that agreement.

Some examples:

  • How do you think we should solve this?
  • What’s the best you can do?
  • How do you think I should do that?
  • How am I supposed to do that?
  • Tell me more about ________.
  • What else might be possible here?
  • What are the major concerns on your end?
  • What would you like to see happen here?


When you’re a good listener, the person sitting across from you assigns a host of positive attributes to you. Intelligence, thoughtfulness, trustworthiness, etc, etc. While you can read more about what makes a great listener here, for our purposes it’s sufficient to emphasize the fact that you do not need to fill gaps in the conversation. Ask your question and leave space for an answer.

Authentic escalation

This is different from pretending to not be a decision maker. Instead, this provides a level of transparency while providing you any time and space you need to consider your end of the deal.

It is normal (and encouraged) to touch base with folks you trust who can help you make a great decision. Be it your boss, manager, spouse, friend, advisor, don’t hesitate to simply say you need some time to check in. It’s as simple as “This sounds great, let me run it by my boss/manager/spouse/advisor.”

Take your time

After reading the above tactics, It should be abundantly clear that taking your time is an asset to an integrity-driven and successful negotiation. There’s no need to rush. Sit back, ask your questions, listen in, escalate if you need or want to. Let the conversation take the time it takes.

Ethical Considerations

Let me be abundantly clear: it is never acceptable to misrepresent information, or to lie, in layman’s terms.

This is why slushy facts and rush jobs are such frequent tactics among unscrupulous negotiators. They’ve not lied, per se, but are using manipulations to gloss over undesirable aspects of what they have to offer.

And please, always engage experts when you need them. A couple thousand bucks spent on a professional negotiator, mediator, attorney, financial pro, insurance guru, or other necessary expert amounts to savings in the hundreds of thousands in time spent, energy, and actual money, of course.

Related Episodes of The Persuasion Lab Podcast:

Subscribe wherever you love to listen to your podcasts for weekly episodes! In the meantime, here are a few episodes related to this topic you might enjoy:

#18 — Persuasive Mechanisms

#24 — Body Language

#25 — Micro Expressions

#32 — Trust and Sales with Larry Johnson

#35 — How to defeat logical fallacies

#60 How to Negotiate Honestly and Effectively