How to Control a Negotiation

The key to controlling a negotiation is likely not what you expect. In fact, it’s probably the opposite of what you’re hoping to hear. I suspect the answer will not be popular. When I searched for the most attractive titles for this article, any variation of the actual answer barely registered on the scoreboard, but as soon as I keyed in ‘how to control a negotiation’ the numbers lit up.

Here’s the best kept secret …

The key to controlling your negotiations is to let go of control.

But apparently, Letting Go of Control to Get Better Outcomes in Negotiations is not a sexy title.

That’s not a surprise. In fact, that’s one of the motivators that kick-started my mission to reframe how we define control, power, success, and negotiation. For too long we’ve been conditioned to frame these concepts based on a competitive model, when the reality is that bringing so-called ‘feminine’ traits to the table will secure better outcomes, better relationships, better buy-in, longer-lasting agreements and more creative solutions that benefit all. And so The Art of Feminine Negotiation™ was born.

Our competitive ‘win-lose’ approach typically has us defining control as control over others rather than control ‘with’ others. Even dictionary definitions define control as ‘dominating, commanding, exerting control over others’.

I was guilty of this in my litigation practice for many years. I was known as the Barracuda, and I prided myself on controlling every possible aspect of the negotiations and beyond. We see this approach in law, in business, in sales, in politics and more. Sadly, we’ve come to define success based on these approaches.

Likewise, we tend to try to exert power over others rather than with others. My article on How to Get and Use Power in Negotiations had a similar reframing theme. Most conflict arises over perceived lack of power or control. Imagine if we reframe how we look at it and how we approach it to more constructive ends.

How about you? Do you find yourself trying to control any of the following in your negotiations?

  • Location: 

    We often see power jostling over where negotiations are going to take place. Each party fights to exert control over the setting, hoping to gain some advantage.
  • Outcomes:

    Similarly, most people think it’s a sign of ‘victory’ in a negotiation if they’re able to push their agenda and only focus on the outcomes they seek. 
  • Pace:

    Whether consciously or not, we often even control the pace of our negotiations, barrelling along at the speaking pace we find most comfortable.
  • Tone:

    Likewise, we rarely pay attention for cues about the tone the other party may prefer, choosing instead to set the tone on our terms. 
  • Information:

    We’ve also been conditioned to try to control the flow of information. We tend to hold our cards close to our chest, while at the same time, dominating the dialogue, believing that the person talking the loudest and longest is ‘winning’ the negotiation.

Allow me to offer a different perspective so you can choose to be more intentional in your negotiations going forward, rather than buying into old conditioning that may not serve you.

Here are a few tips to help you reframe your approach to control …

  • Rather than seeking to exert control over the other party or the negotiation process, instead, seek to build consensus through collaboration. 
  • If you find your ego showing up, tamper it down and immediately switch the focus to the other party.
  • Get curious.
  • Ask questions.
  • Listen more than you talk.
  • Rather than trying to control the pace, instead try to match the pace of the other party.
  • Take your cues on tone from the other party.
  • Be willing to be vulnerable.
  • Seek to truly understand and meet the needs of the other party.
  • Consider location with greater intention. Instead of trying to insist on a ‘home field’ advantage as a means of exerting control and power, consider that other locations may serve you better. i.e. consider access to information, mood, atmosphere, comfort, etc.
  • Allow the other party to feel in control of the process with you.
  • Try to see the issue(s) from the other party’s perspective.
  • Build trust by ceding control on certain items. 

Remember that we can’t always control our external circumstances, but we can choose to control how we react. Others may not remember what you said, but they will remember how you make them feel. Be intentional about creating an environment where they feel seen, heard and valued. You will get more of what you want in doing so.


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


better outcomes, Control a negotiation, let go of control

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