What You'll Learn
  • Negotiation tactics are maneuvers one side uses to provoke movement or gain advantage over the other side
  • Tactics can be an extremely effective tool for collaborative negotiations
  • Tactics can be perceived as confrontational and come with some risk
  • In some cases use of certain negotiating tactics can be illegal
  • Tactics are powerful tools

Negotiation tactics are maneuvers one side uses to provoke movement or gain advantage over the other side.

Tactics can be done in a way that is acceptable, effective and carries minimal risk. We encourage use of select tactics in collaborative (win-win) negotiations because when used properly, they help the parties reach mutually beneficial agreements. In this section we review the most commonly used tactics, and describe if and how to use them in collaborative negotiations.

Tactics share these characteristics:

  • Designed to provoke a specific reaction
  • Not straightforward
  • Contain a hidden agenda
  • Can irritate or erode trust if used improperly

Negotiating tactics have evolved over hundreds or even thousands of years of human interaction, communication and commerce, and are widely used throughout the world. While there are divergent views among negotiators, legal, psychology and business academics, as well as in different cultures over the appropriateness of certain negotiating tactics, all agree that they are commonly found in both simple and complex negotiations.


  • Used sparingly and at the right time in the right situation, tactics can be an extremely effective tool in collaborative negotiations.

You may not be comfortable with some tactics

Effective negotiators use tactics in a way that honors the circumstance, but also understand that tactics can be perceived as confrontational and come with some risk to the relationship, the outcome, or the user's reputation if:

  • Used at the wrong time;
  • Used in the wrong situation;
  • Used improperly;
  • Not respectful of the relationship; or
  • Overused.

These maneuvers, or tactics, are considered by some as "sly," an attempt to get in the back door when the front door is closed, "under-handed," and at the extreme, unethical. In some cases use of certain negotiating tactics can be illegal, such as a misrepresentation that rises to the level of fraud. Others consider tactics part of the negotiation game; a skilled negotiator masters their effective use and the defenses against them. If you are uncomfortable with any tactic, don't use it.


  • Remember, tactics are powerful tools. They are not best practices, but they are effective maneuvers used to provoke movement or gain advantage.

Those who engage in win-win collaborative negotiations understand the power of tactics used appropriately to achieve more beneficial outcomes, but your counterpart will not always have the same attitude or value system. Even if you only use tactics honorably or don't use tactics, you will encounter counterparts who do otherwise. It is critical, therefore, that you are able to:

  • Recognize tactics;
  • Use tactics effectively in appropriate situations, and;
  • Know how to defend against their use by others.

  • And in the area of defense, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Where possible, protect yourself by taking preventive measures that make it less likely the tactic can be used against you, and have strong defenses in reserve.