If you don’t think of yourself as a “good negotiator,” consider this: You negotiate all the time — with your teammates on how to delegate a project, with your roommate on who will clean the kitchen this week, and even with yourself on whether you should have the burger or the salad for lunch.

The difference between small day-to-day bargains and negotiating with someone in a more powerful position are the stakes. But when you think of negotiating as just another way of asking, discussing a raise with your boss or a counteroffer with a recruiter becomes much easier.

Smart negotiating is a skill that requires practice. Following these five basic principles will undoubtedly make you a more successful negotiator.

Be prepared

Once you’ve determined that a better outcome is worth negotiating, you must prepare how you will ask for it. Knowing exactly what you are trying to accomplish will help cut through the noise and keep you on track throughout the process. Writing down your top objectives or main goal can help. 

Understanding your counterpart is another essential step in preparing to enter a negotiation. Know their position of power, and, if possible, ask other people who have negotiated with the party in the past. The key is: do your research.

Have a strategy

Developing a game plan before negotiating will make you much more successful. First, know that in a negotiation, you will never get what you ask for. Make your first offer aggressive and have a clear idea in advance of what (or how much) you’re willing to give up without hurting your position. 

Choosing your timing wisely will also give you a stronger edge in a negotiation. Watch for clues from your counterpart like body language or speech patterns and be prepared to stop negotiations if it seems like he or she is unwilling to negotiate fairly.


It can often be helpful to practice an important discussion with a trusted friend. Approaching a negotiation like a conversation — not an argument — will help you feel more comfortable initiating a request while showing respect for the other person. Remember that getting defensive or interrupting will never get you what you want. Instead, ask for clarification and specifics if the other party objects to your proposal or offers a counter that seems questionable.

Know when to stop talking

This is one of the biggest hazards in the negotiation process. Great negotiating requires more listening than talking — once you’ve said something, you can’t take it back. Avoid negotiating with yourself by remaining quiet after you’ve laid out a term and pausing in silence after the other person has made a counter. Rambling will make you seem less confident and may cause you to make unintentional concessions. 

Close the deal

Once you and your counterpart have decided on a fair outcome, make sure to nail down the specifics (price, terms and conditions, etc.) and cover the full scope of what the final deal entails. And remember that it takes two parties to negotiate or renegotiate a deal. In other words, exit a negotiation with confidence and appreciation for the other party. Then, when you find yourself in the dealmaker’s chair again down the road, you’ll be ready.