Top 5 Negotiation Quotes

Sometimes hearing the right words at the right time is the boost you need to persevere with a challenge or re-invigorate yourself after a busy work week, so we’ve compiled the top five quotes from negotiation legends intended to inspire, energise, and encourage you. Informed by decades of experience, hard-won wisdom and negotiation skill, these quotes can be used as daily reminders or as a momentary cosmic nudge to keep you on course and focused on securing successful outcomes.

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“During a negotiation, it would be wise not to take anything personally. If you leave personalities out of it, you will be able to see opportunities more objectively.”Brian Koslow

Brian Koslow, CEO of Breakthrough Coaching and published author, highlights the importance of remaining objective during a negotiation. Although this is easier said than done when the stakes are high, and the other party is displaying combative behaviour, it’s necessary. Often in these cases, the aim is to throw you off your game and incite a reaction from you, causing you to allow emotion to cloud your judgement. Other times it isn’t a tactic but is a part of their negotiation style. Either way, leaving egos at the door and not taking their comments to heart can ensure you remain focused on the job and don’t miss any golden opportunities to improve your deal.

If this is an area of weakness for you, it’s a good idea to have some strategies in place to support you. Prior to the negotiation, you could role-play combative scenarios to help desensitise your reaction. Additionally, you could plan breaks into the schedule to allow you to regain composure and use mindfulness techniques such as counting to ten before responding to help you regulate your emotions when facing aggressive tactics.


“Successful negotiation is not about getting to ‘yes’; it’s about mastering ‘no’ and understanding what the path to an agreement is.” – Christopher Voss

Christopher Voss is a former FBI hostage negotiator turned CEO, author and academic, so he knows what he’s talking about regarding the art of negotiation. Here he stresses the importance of using the word “no” when attempting to reach an agreement. Whilst this might seem counterintuitive, knowing when to say “no” is arguably more essential than knowing when to say yes. Negotiators have to walk a fine line, you don’t want to use the word too often and end up in a stalemate, but you also don’t want to use it infrequently and end up accepting a substandard deal.

The path to an agreement requires you to know your ZOPA (Zone of Possible Acceptance) and your BATNA (Best Alternatives to a Negotiated Agreement) inside and out. That way, you can judge when to say “no” without becoming an obstacle. For example, if a deal falls below your minimum pricing threshold, you can turn down the offer and counter it with your own, more acceptable alternative. It can also be helpful to keep a ranked list of goals and desires based on their importance to you or the other party so that you can make smart bargaining decisions.


“Information is a negotiator’s greatest weapon.” Victor Kiam

Viktor Kiam was an American entrepreneur, TV spokesman and past owner of the New England Patriots. He states that information is an essential tool in a negotiator's arsenal. After all, knowledge is power. Carrying out comprehensive research as part of your pre-negotiation preparations puts you in a position of power and allows you to exert control over the agreement you create. Before you step up to the table, you should know the following:

  • Your must-haves, desires, and walk-away point.
  • Your weaknesses and strengths
  • Your ZOPA and BATNA
  • You should know the motivations, desires, and must-haves of the other party.
  • Any background information about the party, such as pricing, trends, competitors etc.

You should consolidate this information in your action plan and rehearse your argument beforehand. You should be able to justify every point and provide the data to back up your reasoning. Not only does this make your ideas more persuasive, but it also demonstrates that you’ve valued their time by putting in the necessary effort ahead of the negotiation.

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“Anger can be an effective negotiating tool, but only as a calculated act, never as a reaction.”Mark McCormack

Mark McCormark was a lawyer, sports agent and writer who was the founder and chairman of IMG. In his quote, he talks about using anger effectively in negotiation, not as a response, but as a tool. What he means by this is not getting to the point of shouting or threatening the other party but using it as a driver to motivate your negotiation tactics and strategy. For example, feeling angry about a low-value offer can cause you to stand your ground more effectively and exude confidence. The essential takeaway is that you should use it sparingly and calmly, as research suggests that this can increase your status and help you assert your points.

Conversely, static anger is problematic and can actually damage your chances of securing a mutually beneficial deal. If wielded continuously, anger can cause heightened stress responses that increase defensiveness and lower the possibility of concessions. If you feel that you are reaching boiling point, it’s best to take a break and step away to calm down. A negotiation should never devolve into a shouting match.


“One of the best ways to persuade others is by listening to them.”Dean Rusk

Under presidents, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, Dean Rusk was the Secretary of State, which required him to take charge of the USA’s foreign affairs. In short, he had to be an excellent negotiator and culturally mindful of the other party as he liaised with nations across the globe. In our final quote, Dean Rusk emphasises the importance of listening in a negotiation as a persuasive tool. Listening requires you to go beyond simply hearing that the other person is speaking and requires you to focus on what the other party is saying. Today, we call this active listening, and it should use all of your senses. An active listener should:

  • Use eye contact and body language to show they are engaged.
  • Observe and read the other party’s body language.
  • Provide feedback by reflecting, paraphrasing, and questioning the other party’s points.
  • Respond assertively and politely.

An active listener doesn’t spend time thinking up their response or interrupting the flow of the person speaking; instead, they give the person their full, undivided attention. This makes them more persuasive because the other party feels valued and connected to the listener. Subsequently, this helps to build a better relationship and rapport, making them more open to counterarguments and compromise. It also allows the listener to create a stronger argument as they fully understand the speaker's motivations, desires, and needs.

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