6 Negotiation Skills to Level Up Your Work Life

6 Negotiation Skills to Level Up Your Work Life was originally published on Forage.

Sometimes, we don’t get everything we want and need to respectfully ask for what we’re looking for. That’s where negotiation skills come in — and they’re not just for asking for the salary we think we deserve (even though they come in handy then). Negotiation skills are crucial for people in all different industries, especially when working with difficult coworkers or clients. 

So, what are negotiation skills, how are they used, and how can you build them — without needing work experience? Here’s your go-to guide.

Negotiation Skills Defined

Negotiation skills are the skills you use to come to an agreement between two or more people. 

You likely use these skills in everyday interactions; for example, let’s say you and your friend plan to spend Saturday together. You want to try a new brunch place, but they want to cook at home. You’d use negotiation skills to figure out plans that work for both of you. You could negotiate to try the new brunch place on Saturday but say you’d be willing to cook at home with them for dinner another night that week. They may try to negotiate with you and ask what you’re looking forward to at the brunch place, then offer to make those special cinnamon toast pancakes at home.

In the workplace, people in all different types of careers use negotiation skills — not just in sales

For example, let’s say you work in finance for an apparel company. You and your coworker have to present your financial plans to your manager, but you have disagreeing views. Your coworker has specific ideas of what t-shirt styles are in season to satisfy guest demand, but you have different ones. 

To negotiate with your coworker, you must listen to their rationale and ask clarifying questions. You’ll also need to support your idea with data and backup plans. Then, you’ll work with that coworker to persuade them to see your side. Finally, you’ll develop an agreement that meets somewhere in the middle, conceding any part of the strategy to their plans if you find their idea will work better.


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Why Are Negotiation Skills Important?

Negotiation skills are crucial not only for reaching agreements with your coworkers but also for advocating for what you want in the workplace. 

These soft skills can help you:

  • Work more effectively with others: Unfortunately, you won’t always agree with your coworkers on everything. Negotiation skills can help you solve workplace conflicts and find a solution that works for everyone and the business.
  • Maximize value: Negotiating with external clients or providers can help you get the best deal for your company and boost your impact at work. 
  • Maximize your salary: Knowing how to negotiate your salary ensures you’re getting paid what you deserve. According to Pew Research, about two-thirds of people got higher salaries than initially offered after negotiating. Thirty-eight percent of people were given more than what was offered but less than they asked for, while 28% received what they asked for. 

Negotiation Skills Examples

To negotiate properly and respectfully, you’ll need a variety of skills to hear the other person’s point of view, argue your own, and reach an agreement.

Active Listening

Negotiation is about trying to get what you want while ensuring that the other person is OK with the outcome. To understand what they’re looking for, it’s crucial to first practice active listening. 

Active listening skills are more than just hearing what the person is saying; it’s about genuinely engaging when they’re speaking to you. You might nod as they talk, make eye contact, or ask follow-up questions. You want to understand where they’re coming from while making them feel heard. 


Once you’ve heard the person out, you’ll need to communicate with them well, whether you’re negotiating face-to-face, over Zoom, or via email or a messaging service. Using communication skills to talk or write clearly and respectfully ensures that your conversation goes much smoother than if you approached it with a confusing argument or aggressive tone.


Part of negotiation is advocating for your wants and persuading the other person to see your side. To effectively convince them, consider what points will resonate with them and how you can leverage those points. 

For example, let’s say you’re negotiating with a coworker to have them help you with a project. While this will take up some of their time, you know the project will have a significant business impact — and you also see this coworker is looking for opportunities to stand out at the company. Demonstrating the potential business impact can effectively persuade them to get on board.

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Entrepreneurship and Innovation

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Conflict Resolution

Unfortunately, not all negotiations will go smoothly. Sometimes, strong opinions or feelings might make it frustrating and difficult to negotiate effectively. Using conflict resolution skills can help you move the conversation forward respectfully and productively to reach an agreement that works for everybody.


While you might sometimes get precisely what you want out of a negotiation, that’s not always the case — other times, you might have to concede some of what you want to agree. This is where prioritization comes in. Out of all the things you’re asking for, what’s the most important part?

In the brunch scenario we discussed earlier, for example, you might concede going to a brunch place because you really wanted the pancakes. Going out to brunch was important to you, but the priority was the yummy food.

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Strategy Consulting

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At some point, a negotiation ends in an agreement, which means someone needs to make a final decision. Decision-making skills can help you assess the situation rationally and come to a conclusion based on facts, reason, and what’s best for everyone involved.

How to Build Negotiation Skills (Without Work Experience)

Building negotiation skills doesn’t require a full-time job. Here’s what negotiation experts say about practicing these skills outside of an office.


You’re already taking the first step to building negotiation skills — researching! Reading articles that teach you about negotiation examples, strategies, tips, and practices is a great first step. Aim to get familiar with what these skills are and how people tend to use them in workplace environments.

Practice Negotiation Conversations

“Building negotiation can’t be all theory, though,” says Luke Blaney, principal negotiator at Chief Negotiations. 

It’s true — while negotiation can be scary, you have to practice it at some point to start using the skills effectively. 

“You have to learn to get uncomfortable to learn to get comfortable with it. Start small, negotiate something everyone negotiates (like a car or a supplier agreement with work), and practice being a little less ‘giving’ in these negotiations. I got $100 off a car service just because I learned to negotiate and the big one, learning to ask.”

Bring in Data

While negotiations are a lot of talk, you need data to support your argument. 

“Negotiation skills can be learned by preparing metrics,” says Shu Saito, CEO and founder of All Filters LLC and FactRetriever. “For example, if you are a salesperson, you can say, ‘This is how much revenue I brought in. The average profit margin was this. This is what I was paid. Add 25% of employer costs to that pay. I still brought this much money to the company.’”

You can use data in all kinds of negotiation conversations, even ones that don’t involve sales or raises. In the brunch scenario, you could discuss the cost of the brunch versus the cost of buying ingredients. You could also compare the amount of time it’d take you and your friend to cook the pancakes to sitting at the brunch place.

Consider the Context

Sometimes, the issue is not what you’re asking for but external factors that make it impossible to get what you want. When building negotiation skills, be sure to consider the whole scope of the situation you’re practicing in. 

For example, let’s say you’re practicing negotiating a raise. But let’s say the potential company’s financial health is poor. You might not get a “yes” even if you’re performing well, prove your impact with data, and negotiate respectfully. 

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try! Instead, practice negotiating with the context in mind and come prepared with alternatives that might work for you. In this same example, you might negotiate a new title, a flexible work schedule, or more vacation days.

Find Opportunities to Negotiate With People Outside of a Work Environment

There are many ways to use negotiations in real-time, even if you’re not working 40+ hours a week.

“Seeking feedback from peers or mentors and actively participating in networking events or social gatherings can further refine negotiation skills,” says Mason Farmani, intuitive personal and corporate life coach. “Even internships or part-time jobs that involve interactions with colleagues, clients, or customers can offer opportunities to observe and participate in negotiations, allowing individuals to learn from experienced professionals. By engaging in these activities and seeking opportunities to practice negotiation skills, individuals without work experience can develop valuable competencies applicable in both professional and personal contexts.”

Forage job simulations allow you to practice real-world work tasks and scenarios — including negotiation! — as you try out different roles in the workplace. 

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