Practical Tips on Negotiating on Your Own Behalf

You should be prepared before negotiating with the other side. Negotiations are an important tool you can use to save time and money while resolving your case. Keep in mind, going to court is costly. Some costs you are likely to have by going to court includes fees at almost every stage of the trial, court costs, potentially attorneys, lost money from time off work and is usually emotionally exhausting. Below are a few tips on conducting a successful negotiation.

  • Stay calm.
 If you need to take a break during the negotiation to regain your emotional balance – take a break. Go to the bathroom or have a glass of water or remember you need to make a quick private call and apologize. Take the break before the situation heats up.
  • Write up a list of what you want and a separate list of what you would be willing to settle for. 
Consider other options as you review the lists. Then put the lists to the side and listen to the other person. 
  • “Stand in the other person’s shoes” and keep an open mind.
 This means really listening to the situation from the perspective of the other person. Many situations end in a compromise because there are good points on the both sides. Approach this situation as “how do we solve the problem that we have?” Don’t blame the other side. Even if you are not able to resolve the situation now, a better understanding of the other side’s position will help you to prepare for court.
  • Don’t over-react to negative statements in the beginning.
 Sometimes it takes a while to find common ground. People are often nervous and start the conversation with high emotions. Do not respond to the emotion. Just focus on your goal. You want to resolve the problem.
  • Use questions to explore the other side’s position in a neutral way.
 Questions about the issues show that you are willing to discuss the issues, not just make a demand. Questions can also help to find the common ground between you and help you to understand the other side’s point of view. Use the personal common ground to find a compromise on the issues.
  • Keep notes on every interaction with the other side.
 Include the date you spoke and who said what. While it all seems clear during the discussion, it is common to forget exactly what was said after a few days pass.
  • If you reach an agreement, put it in writing.
 Work it out while you are in the same room, if you can. This avoids the inevitable re-thinking about the case. It also allows you resolve the small details that did not get discussed before.
  • Write a letter if a discussion does not solve the matter.
 A reasonable letter may encourage the other side. Remember that the letter may be used as evidence if the case goes to court.


A special project of the Eastern Shore Regional Library under a Library Services Technology Act grant from the Division of Library Development Services/MD State Department of Education (author: Ayn H. Crawley). Edited by Jessica Nhem

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Is this legal advice?

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