How to Judge if your Negotiations are Effective

Negotiation is one of the most important skills you’ll ever learn. I go so far as to say that all of life is a negotiation – from negotiating your own mindset, to interactions with your kids or intimate partner, to big business deals. Yet sadly, we’re not taught to negotiate. Or to the extent we’re taught, the lessons are largely based on myths that don’t serve you. As a result, it’s not surprising that most people don’t know how to judge if their negotiations are effective. Or, we judge our success based on the wrong criteria. 

Here's a quick checklist of my recommended criteria of the most overlooked factors for assessing whether your negotiation was successful and effective: 

I Does the agreement meet everyone’s needs?

We’re conditioned to see negotiation as a win/lose proposition. In my view, this is the wrong lens. Negotiation shouldn’t be about winning vs losing, but rather about winning better. When we approach a negotiation from a place of ego, seeking to meet only our needs, we seldom achieve best outcomes. 

Instead, if you can bring empathy to the table, truly seeking to understand and meet the needs of the other party, you’ll get better buy-in, longer lasting agreements, better relationships, build trust and get more creative outcomes that exceed your expectations. Getting a short-term gain where the other party walks away feeling bitter rarely serves your long-term interests. 

Remember that the stated needs in any given negotiation are usually the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Get curious and seek to uncover the unstated needs that lie below the surface. In that way, you get to the real heart and can collaborate to find more creative mutually beneficial solutions. 

II Did the negotiation strengthen the relationship?

When you think about the outcome you’re seeking in any negotiation, don’t fall into the trap of only considering the substantive outcome you’re looking for (i.e. the ‘thing’ you want to achieve). That kind of narrow focus seldom leads to best outcomes. 

More importantly, that kind of narrow focus ignores that relationship outcomes are often the most critical (but sadly, the most often overlooked). Sometimes the relationship is more important than the ‘thing’ or issue you’re negotiating about. 

Be intentional about the relationship outcome you desire in any given negotiation. By making this part of your negotiation preparation, you’ll position yourself to get better results across the board. Ideally, you always want to strengthen the relationship coming out the back end of a negotiation. 

III Did you learn something from the negotiation?

As humans we need to grow. 

As William Burroughs said: “When you stop growing, you start dying.”

I invite you to raise your awareness about the lessons you learn from each negotiation. Did you learn something about more effective communication? Or pick up a valuable perspective on improved conflict resolution. Did you find a way to bring curiosity to the table in a deeper way? Did you gain insight on particular strategies or tactics (either because they were effective, or equally important as a learning tool, because they were not effective). 

Doing a personal debrief after each negotiation to consider what you learned will fast-track the improvement of your negotiation prowess and allow you get better end results. 

IV Was the negotiation efficient?

Many negotiations are inefficient. As a long-time labour lawyer, collective bargaining negotiations come to mind. Parties take an inordinate amount of time posturing and delaying, believing they’re gaining some advantage in doing so. It should not be a badge of honour that you took a long time to get a deal. It does not mean you wore the other party down to get a better deal. 

Tied to this, try to avoid over-complicating your agreements. As a lawyer, I’ll be the first to confess that our profession often does a disservice to our clients by focusing on unnecessary deals that get in the way and/or that make the agreement more difficult to implement or enforce. 

Ideally, you want to reach an agreement in as reasonable an amount of time as possible and you want the deal to be practical and workable for all parties. 

Sadly, many negotiations fail if measured by this set of criteria. This applies to both your personal and professional negotiations. 

I encourage you to keep these three simple questions handy when you embark on a negotiation. At the outset, ask yourself how you can best achieve each of these criteria. As the negotiation is in process, keep checking in whether the direction you’re heading will allow you to be successful as defined by these factors. You’ll almost certainly get better outcomes and it will allow you to negotiate a better life. 


Are you looking to up level your negotiation skills?

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

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.


everyone’s needs, judge effective negotiations, win-win, win-win solutions

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