The 3 Key Techniques Used by World-Class Negotiators and Mediators

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Extremely skilled negotiators and conflict mediators seem to have superpowers that allow them to navigate difficult conversations. The good news? The strategies and tactics they use are accessible to everyone. By mastering these three key techniques that expert negotiators and mediators utilize in negotiations and conflict resolution, you can be better equipped to handle your next tough conversation, whether it’s in a personal or professional context.

Don’t miss this intriguing
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Don’t miss this intriguing webinar from HRDQ-U

From Conflict to Connection: Handling Difficult Behaviors in Tough Conversations

The First Key: Preparation, preparation, preparation

woman sitting at desk prepping for a negotiation or conflict conversation

Benjamin Franklin once said, “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail,” which holds true, especially in hard conversations where emotions are running high. You may feel fully prepared if you have strong opinions about what you want. However, wise negotiators understand the importance of thorough preparation, investing time and effort in gathering information, understanding the interests of all parties, and identifying potential areas of agreement.

By answering relevant questions and analyzing the facts and motivations involved, you can confidently approach the conversation and navigate any challenges that may arise.

How can you implement this?

Before your next hard conversation, sit down and answer these questions:

  • What are relevant facts, figures, background information, and data?
  • What is your goal from the conversation?
  • Just as important, what is your BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement) – what’s the best course of action available to you if you can’t reach an agreement?
  • What are some potential needs and concerns of the other party?


The more you thoroughly prepare this, the more confident you’ll feel navigating challenges that may arise.

The Second Key: Negotiations and hard conversations aren’t competitions – they’re an opportunity for collaboration

People putting together a puzzle, showing navigating conflict resolution

Rather than being fearful of pushback or being taken advantage of, expert negotiators adopt a “possibility” mindset. They don’t view these conversations as a zero-sum game where somebody has to win, and somebody has to lose. Instead, they approach each discussion with curiosity and open-mindedness, seeking innovative solutions and opportunities for mutual gain. Instead of fixating on rigid positions, they explore different perspectives, creating space for creative problem-solving and collaboration.

More importantly, having this mindset allows you to take the time to build rapport and trust, leading to both sides feeling more comfortable sharing their underlying interests. They ask, “What is possible here?”

How can you implement this?

Before your next hard conversation, sit down and reflect on the following questions:

  • What assumptions am I making here that I could stop?
  • What biases am I falling victim to here?
  • What could I say and do to create an atmosphere of psychological safety?

By fostering an environment of openness and receptivity, you expand the potential for finding innovative solutions that meet the needs of all parties involved.

The Third Key: Don’t let your emotions control you

Two women having a conversation
It’s only natural and human biology that our fight/flight/freeze response is running high in hard conversations, and we may not be thinking logically anymore. This clouds our judgment and hinders our ability to communicate effectively and to listen carefully. Intense anger can lead to risky choices, and sadness can lead us to overpay in negotiations. Staying composed and maintaining emotional control can create an environment conducive to rational decision-making and productive dialogue.

How can you implement this?

Before your next difficult conversation, practice some self-awareness by asking these questions:

  • What emotions am I feeling, and where in my body am I feeling it?
  • What do I need in order to calm my emotions down? (mindfulness? Grounding? etc.)


Then, in the middle of the conversation, try these skills if things are heating up:


  • Take a step back and breathe
  • Gather your thoughts to respond and not automatically react
  • Use active listening skills to demonstrate empathy and understanding
  • Suggest a break so everyone can cool down and then come back and talk about what happened


By taking proactive steps to manage your emotions, such as identifying and acknowledging them, employing mindfulness techniques, and utilizing active listening skills, you can reduce the impact of the fight/flight/freeze response.

What Should Be Your Next Step?

Put them into practice. By incorporating these three key skills – preparation, a collaboration mindset, and emotional control – you can transform difficult conversations into opportunities for successful collaboration. Embrace the strategies and tactics expert negotiators and mediators use, dedicating yourself to practice and refinement in negotiation and conflict resolution. With the right mindset and dedication, you can confidently navigate challenging conversations and achieve positive outcomes in any negotiation scenario.

Chris Wong
Chris Wong

Chris Wong is a certified executive coach, licensed therapist, and seasoned leadership development professional with a proven track record in the nonprofit sector. He specializes in guiding leaders through strategic prioritization, confident navigation of difficult conversations, and fostering high-performing cultures. As a facilitator and public speaker, Chris has trained hundreds of leaders and spearheaded successful organizational projects. His extensive experience spans nonprofit, health insurance, and government systems and encompasses leadership development, strategic planning, change management, and diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Currently, he partners with human service nonprofit executives to execute strategic plans, addressing challenges such as conflict resolution, culture enhancement, productivity improvement, and fostering inclusive work environments.

Connect with Chris on LinkedIn and at

Recommended Webinar
From Conflict to Connection: Handling Difficult Behaviors in Tough Conversations

Join this webinar to learn the necessary skills to navigate hard conversations, identify and prevent challenging behaviors, and effectively manage conflicts. Don’t miss the opportunity to enhance your negotiation and conflict resolution abilities.

From Conflict to Connection: Handling Difficult Behaviors in Tough Conversations
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