Can You Become a Better Negotiator by Watching T.V.?

Spending time watching T.V. is typically seen as a time-waste. We beat ourselves up for kicking back and disengaging the brain. I invite you to consider that you can make this so-called downtime more productive by getting intentional about how you consume the product. Particularly if you’re looking to uplevel your negotiation skills, there’s loads of valuable lessons to be gleaned from your T.V. watching experience.

A while back I did an article on Lessons You Can Learn From the Hit New T.V. Show Partner Track. Turns out there was lots to learn (and think about) by going a layer deeper. More recently, I explored the lessons to be learned in the hit Spanish show, Alpha Males, in my post, Is the New ‘Feminine’ Approach to Negotiations Doomed to Failure?

Today, I thought I’d continue the theme by peeking behind the curtain of the show, For the People, which I just discovered (even though it aired in 2018 and sadly only ran for two seasons). The series follows 6 first year lawyers, half of whom are public defenders and half prosecutors. Not surprisingly, there’s loads of negotiation scenes in the show.

Last night I watched an episode where they focused on a character renowned for his negotiation prowess. At first, I could see why. He finessed the situation so the prosecutor ended up coming to his apartment after hours, where he had a bunch of home-baked pies ready – apparently a ploy he used regularly to great success. Using this ‘ah shucks’ folksy approach, he got what he wanted. There was some decent messages about negotiation in the mix.

Location is important – choose where to negotiate with care.

Determine in advance of the negotiation who you want to show up as and who the other party expects you to show up as. By flipping the expected role and script you can gain valuable traction.

Choose the when of your negotiations with intention to maximize best outcomes.

Be intentional about your language, tone, pacing and volume. The mood of a negotiation can be managed when you bring care to these elements.

A collaborative approach can often secure much better outcomes than a competitive approach.

Leaving aside the patent manipulation, his approach of collaboration is one I advocate. In fact, he invoked my 5W model in this scene to great effect. [For an exploration of my 5W model, check out my e-book, 5 Secret Weapons to Effective Negotiation.] My book, The Art of Feminine Negotiation explores this new model at great length.

But then they showed a scene with a touching moment between the seasoned negotiator and our first year prosecuting protagonist. The purported negotiation expert had a conversation where he left his counterpart with a particular understanding, but then totally blind-sided him, undercutting him publicly in the media, taking an opposite position. The character tried to justify it on basis that everyone wants to win so it gets tough.

I did NOT see this as an example of effective negotiation. Arguably it constituted bad faith bargaining. He completely resiled from their discussion, twisting the conversation to his own ends. In my view, this type of approach, while it may seem to garner immediate benefits, is counter-productive.

Effective negotiators know that building trust is the cornerstone of the art. Building rapport is essential, not as a means to backstab the other party and take them by surprise, but rather, looking for long-term better buy-in, longer lasting agreements, better relationships and more creative mutually beneficial outcomes.

The short-sighted approach has a high cost (as it did in this episode). Trying to gain points through tactical misrepresentation causes a loss of integrity and corresponding lack of trust. In this case, as in real life, it caused backlash that bit him and his client in the proverbial butt in the end.

There can be much value in watching T.V. shows or movies if you bring intention to the table. It doesn’t have to be a mindless activity. Simply paying attention to the lessons portrayed, questioning the messages, and gleaning insights you can take away to improve your approach will make the time spent a worthwhile endeavour.

It doesn’t have to be a legal show. All of life is a negotiation so the airways are rife with examples to draw from. In fact, I’ll be doing an episode soon on favorite negotiation scenes from movies or TV shows, but for now, just wanted to tease the concept.


Are you looking to up level your negotiation skills?

How to Get What You Want from the Boardroom to the Bedroom

Negotiation skills are a woman’s secret weapon.

Art of Feminine Negotiation debunks myths and multi-generational gender conditioning that have stopped women from fully stepping into their power. Uncover the unconscious biases that have limited women from becoming the biggest and best versions of themselves. 


Learn the key skillsets that mark superior negotiators, explore how women already possess these skills in spades, and master how to start invoking these essential skills with intention in everyday life.

Please enjoy my TEDx Ocala talk
- Rise of the Feminine Voice as the Key to Our Future-  

rise of the feminine voice cindy watson tedx ocala

Click to play


For the People Show, Location is important, Negotiations, prosecutors, public defenders

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