5 ways to improve personal relationships with negotiation

When most people think about negotiation the first picture that comes to mind is that of two people pushing their respective agenda in a business or professional context, with each one attempting to win the other over. However negotiation is not limited to the business or professional environment. It is a fact of everyday life. Whenever two or more people have conflicting interests and want to reach an agreement, negotiation comes to play.

Learning to negotiate presents a powerful opportunity to strengthen any relationship. By genuinely seeking the highest good of the other person, we can reach an agreement that serves everyone well. The outcome could even be much better than the original intent of both parties. While negotiation usually involves give-and-take, it doesn’t necessarily mean that someone has to always sacrifice or give up what he/she wants in order to sustain the relationship.

This post provides practical suggestions to help you negotiate more productively. Our primary focus is on personal relationships but these ideas will also prove useful in business and professional contexts.

These practical ideas will help you improve your personal relationships with principled negotiation. Click To Tweet

1. Clarify what you want

Start by stating what you want. Ensure that you are specific; vague requests will most likely breed misunderstanding. Don’t expect the other party to figure out what you want. And be mindful of the fact that sometimes the real issue is not as it first appears. So you should ask questions and help each other clarify your respective desires until you achieve shared meaning. Once you understand the real issue you can proceed to brainstorm creative solutions. The way you present your request matters too. Avoid nagging, shouting, issuing direct commands or maintaining a posture that disregards the other person. You are likely to have a better outcome when you are considerate.

2. Practise active listening

Listening is of utmost importance to the negotiation process. You must deliberately tune in to the other person. This is because you really can’t expect to be understood by your partner if you don’t seek to understand him/her first. Don’t be too eager to speak your mind. Listen actively and empathetically. This means that you listen with full concentration and avoid interrupting or aggravating the other party. Pay attention not only to their words but also subtle cues like body language and tone of voice. You shouldn’t just listen to prepare your own response; listen with full attention so you can see the situation from your partner’s perspective. You can then proceed to respond kindly and politely when it’s your turn to speak.

Don't just listen to prepare your own response; listen with full attention so you can see the situation from your partner's perspective. Click To Tweet

3. Emphasise shared goals

Approach the negotiation process with the mindset of cooperation rather than opposition. You and your partner are not adversaries fighting to outwit one another. See yourselves as being on the same team and working towards a common goal. Even if your specific interests are different you still have the same overriding goals of living happily together and seeking the highest good of each other. By actively emphasising what you have in common you will be better positioned to reach an agreement that serves everyone best not just in the immediate but over the long term.

4. Set boundaries and take responsibility

Successful relationships involve a significant degree of shared responsibility. But there are times when you need to take responsibility for yourself and act in your best interest. You should avoid the extreme of always doing things to please yourself. Yet, you also can’t be open to everyone else’s idea at the expense of your personal happiness. You need to find a healthy midpoint and sometimes insist on doing things your way as long as your action doesn’t harm the other person.

For example, if your partner wants you to refill the cooking gas but you are not available to do so, communicate your position politely but firmly and see if you can suggest other alternatives. For example, can it wait until you’re free to take care of it? How about calling the gas vendor and requesting home delivery?

Successful relationships involve shared responsibility. But there are times when you need to take responsibility for yourself and act in your best interest. Click To Tweet

5. Don’t keep scores

Negotiation usually involves some form of compromise. Sometimes you can feel that you have conceded much ground and your partner needs to make it up or repay you in some way. But this kind of thinking is not good for any relationship especially when your partner doesn’t feel the same way. It breeds disaffection and could even degenerate to hatred.

Remember you’re not competing against each other. You’re on the same team, working towards a common goal. So when you give, give freely without expecting anything in return. If you want something in return make it clear during the negotiation process. Don’t assume that your partner owes you anything if that has not been explicitly agreed.

If you don’t want to give freely there’s nothing wrong with negotiating a fair compensation. What’s wrong is keeping a mental note that your partner owes you something and bringing it up when an issue arises much later.


We can significantly improve our most important relationships if we will pay deliberate attention to demonstrating unselfish love. Principled negotiation can help us achieve this without trampling on others or suppressing our own desires.

Question: Which of these negotiation tips did you find most helpful and what would you like to add? Share with us in the comments.