Vocabulary for Negotiating in Business

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Understanding the language of negotiation is crucial to success in any business or personal interaction. This article introduces you to key terms of negotiation in business, helping you to navigate the complex world of negotiation with greater ease and confidence.

Mastering Business Negotiation Vocabulary: Enhance Your Communication Skills

Basic Terms in Negotiation

Grasping the basic terms in business negotiation lays the foundation for better understanding and navigating work dialogues. This section will introduce you to essential negotiation terms.

  • Negotiator: a person involved in discussions to reach an agreement; typically represents a party's interests.
  • Party: it may be a company or a person with an interest in something.
  • Interest: the underlying needs, desires, or concerns that motivate a party's position; identifying these can lead to more effective, win-win solutions.
  • Position: the stance or demand a party makes in a negotiation; often what they initially state about their wishes.
  • Principal: the person or entity that a negotiator represents; the ultimate decision-maker.
  • Stakeholder: any person or group who may be affected by the outcome of a negotiation; may or may not be directly involved.

Now that you've familiarized yourself with the basic negotiation terms, you can identify the roles and aspects of negotiation more clearly. Keep practicing these terms as they form the building blocks of negotiation.

Strategies and Tactics

Knowing the right strategies and tactics can make a significant difference in negotiation outcomes. In this list, you’ll explore some business negotiation terms related to strategies to enhance your negotiation skill set.

  • Strategy: a long-term plan or approach to achieve a party's negotiation goals; may involve multiple tactics.
  • Tactic: a specific action or maneuver to gain an advantage during a negotiation; tactics support the overall strategy.
  • Hardball: a strategy in negotiations that employs aggressive and uncompromising tactics.
  • Lowball: a tactic of indicating a deceptively low estimate or price.
  • Highball: a tactic where a party starts negotiations with a ridiculously high proposal; designed to make subsequent offers seem more reasonable.
  • Good cop/bad cop: a psychological tactic where one negotiator appears supportive and understanding while the other seems aggressive and uncompromising.
  • Anchoring: a tactic where a party establishes a reference point around which negotiations will revolve.
  • Bracketing: a tactic of making an extreme initial offer to influence the range of possible negotiation outcomes.

Having learned about various strategies and tactics for negotiating in business, you're better prepared to approach a negotiation with a structured plan. Remember, the strategic use of these tactics can often lead to more favorable outcomes.


Negotiation Styles

Different negotiators have different styles, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. In this section, you'll learn terms that describe styles and how they influence business negotiation outcomes.

  • Assertive: a negotiation style where a negotiator strongly pushes their interests; can lead to win-lose outcomes if not balanced with cooperation.
  • Accommodating: a negotiation style where a negotiator prioritizes the other party's interests over their own; can lead to win-lose outcomes if not balanced with assertion.
  • Avoiding: a negotiation style where a negotiator sidesteps the negotiation or conflict altogether; often results in no resolution or a lose-lose outcome.
  • Collaborative: a negotiation style where a negotiator seeks to satisfy both parties' interests; often leads to win-win outcomes.
  • Competitive: a negotiation style where a negotiator aims to achieve their own objectives without much regard for the other party's interests; often associated with win-lose outcomes.
  • Compromising: a negotiation style where a negotiator is willing to make concessions in order to reach a quick solution; may lead to a partially satisfactory outcome for all parties.
  • Passive: a negotiation style where a negotiator does not actively pursue their own interests, often allowing the other party to control the negotiation; this style can result in a lose-win outcome if not balanced.
  • Principled: a negotiation style where a negotiator focuses on the underlying interests of the parties rather than their stated positions; aims for a win-win outcome based on mutual benefit.
  • Adaptive: a negotiation style where a negotiator changes their approach based on the dynamics of the negotiation, the other party's style, or new information; may employ elements of other styles as required.

Understanding these negotiation styles not only allows you to recognize your own tendencies but also helps you adapt to the style of your counterpart. This knowledge will allow for more effective and flexible negotiation approaches.

Power Dynamics in Negotiations

Power dynamics play a crucial role in negotiating in business and can significantly influence their outcomes. Here are some important terms related to power dynamics.

  • Leverage: the advantage that puts one in a dominant position; often due to control over valuable resources.
  • Bargaining: discussing the terms of an agreement or contract; often involves give-and-take on various issues.
  • Bargaining power: the capacity of a party to influence the terms of a negotiation; determined by factors like alternatives, resources, and time.
  • Bargaining range: the spread between the maximum a buyer is willing to pay and the minimum a seller is willing to accept.
  • BATNA: acronym for "Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement"; the most advantageous course of action if negotiations fail.
  • ZOPA: acronym for "Zone Of Possible Agreement"; the range in which an agreement is satisfactory to both parties.
  • Stalemate: a position counting as a draw, where a player is not in check but cannot move without going into check; in negotiations, it's a point where no party is willing to compromise further.
  • Standstill: a situation or condition in which there is no movement or activity at all; in negotiations, it's when talks have halted without resolution.

After exploring power dynamics, you can better understand how power influences business negotiations. This knowledge will help you navigate and balance power dynamics in future negotiations, leading to fairer outcomes.

Impasse and Resolution

Business negotiation can sometimes reach an impasse, and understanding how to navigate toward a resolution is key. Let's delve into terms that will guide you through difficult negotiation phases.

  • Impasse: when two or more parties can’t agree on something.
  • Deadlock: a point in a negotiation where no further progress can be made; can lead to the breakdown of negotiations.
  • Agreement: a negotiated and typically legally binding arrangement between parties; it outlines the actions each party must perform.
  • Compromise: an agreement reached by each side making concessions; sometimes, it's a middle ground that satisfies both parties.
  • Concession: a point yielded by a negotiator in order to reach agreement; usually involves compromise on a position.
  • Mediation: a process where a neutral third party helps the negotiating parties to reach an agreement; typically used when negotiations are at an impasse.
  • Arbitration: a process where an impartial person settles a dispute; this decision is legally binding.
  • Proposal: an idea or plan suggested for acceptance; it's a starting point for negotiation.
  • Counteroffer: a response to an initial offer; it usually includes changes or adjustments to the original proposal.

With these terms, you can now identify an impasse and employ techniques to achieve a resolution. The ability to turn a deadlock into a successful negotiation is a valuable skill, and these terms will guide you in that direction.


The world of negotiation can seem complicated, but familiarizing yourself with the vocabulary can make it much easier to understand. Now that you're equipped with these key terms, you can participate in negotiations with greater confidence. Remember, effective negotiation is about clear communication, and your newfound vocabulary is a powerful tool in your communication arsenal. Keep learning and practicing, and you're sure to become a skilled negotiator.

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PromovaDec 20th, 2023
Understanding negotiation strategies like "hardball," "lowball," "highball," and tactics such as "anchoring" or "bracketing" provides insights into the methodologies employed during negotiations. Strategies dictate the overarching plan, while tactics serve as specific maneuvers to influence the negotiation process. Mastery of these terms enables negotiators to recognize and respond to tactics employed by counterparts, allowing for more informed and strategic decision-making during negotiations.
Leon ChapmanDec 20th, 2023
how do strategies and tactics influence negotiation outcomes in business discussions?