Negotiation Glossary

This Negotiation Glossary offers a quick resource to define terms. This glossary covers terms that are unique to the negotiating field, both acronyms and slang. The glossary also covers terms that are commonly used in business, communication, law and other fields, and provides a definition of how that term is used in the negotiating context.

A tactic used to open bargaining outside your MDO (Most Desired Outcome) so that when you move it appears as if you have conceded much in the hopes of causing the other side to second-guess their MDO and open at or near their goal, thus anchoring them at a lower opening than justified by the circumstances.

An unbiased and objective person agreed to by the parties to decide the outcome of a dispute.

Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement: Your back-up plan that you are comfortable implementing if an agreement cannot be reached at or above your LAA (Least Acceptable Agreement).

Bad Cop
See definition for Good cop/Bad cop.

Blind Spot
A missed opportunity or idea that one is not open to, not because of a physical eyesight problem, but due to a lack of information, perspective, intellect or emotional appeal.

A tactic in which one side pretends that they may do or agree to something that they really have no intention of doing. To pretend to be in a better position than one is.

Best Possible Agreement: A collection of those choices that best satisfy all stakeholders’ interests.

Brain Storming
Creative development of ideas to solve a problem without judging the merit of the ideas.

To hold a high risk position in a negotiation where the margin between success and failure is slim.

To get “buy-in” is to influence another person to agree, have confidence in, or become vested in a particular strategy or solution.

To acquiesce to terms and conditions you previously resisted.

Cherry Picking
A tactic whereby the negotiator selects the parts of an offer that they like and rejects the parts they don’t like. Use words of dependency, like “contingent on,” in your proposals to defeat cherry picking.

Each side concedes something of value and neither side gets what they wanted.

Giving into something in order to reach an agreement. Concession is sometimes used to indicate a one-sided move, where as a “trade” or “exchange” describes that each side gave and received.

When all parties agree to a term or condition.

A new offer with different terms made in response to an original offer, thereby rejecting the original offer.

A response to an offer that does not come in the form of a counter offer. It is designed to encourage the other party to move off its current position, to make concessions, and ultimately generate creative solutions. You should challenge all Crunches with an equally assertive or greater Counter-Crunch. (See Section VI: Bargaining)

Creative Concession
Ideas, suggestions and offers that satisfy the interests of both parties to a negotiation. Any concession that has a relatively low cost to one side but a relatively high value to the other side. Creative concessions help you achieve a higher level of interest-based or value-based bargaining through knowledge of the other party’s business, concerns, challenges, and interests.  (See also Section VI: Bargaining.)

Defensive Deception
Justifying deceit of the other party based on your expectation that they will do the same to you.

Direct Communication Style
Literal truthfulness and efficiency in communication are highly valued and are to some extent a higher priority than personal or political sensitivities, especially in a business setting. Saying “No” or “I don’t know” is considered both honest and respectful of the party. Examples of cultures that promote a direct communication style include U.S. Americans, Australians, Germans and Anglo Canadians.

Distributed Negotiation (Also referred to as Distributed Bargaining)
A negotiation in which the interests of each party is in complete conflict. A gain to one side results in a loss to the other. Also called Zero-Sum Negotiation or Win-Lose Negotiation.

Going around someone to achieve that which they are resisting, and getting approval from another source with authority.

A sudden rise in the intensity of disagreement between negotiating parties; a sudden rise in the terms that was not expected. 

Expressive Communication Style
Cultures with an expressive communication style regard emotion as a natural part of the communication process. A total lack of emotion in their counterparts may feel to them like a lack of sincerity and trust. Examples of such cultures include Mediterranean, Arab, and in some situations Russian and Latin America.

Fait Accompli
Literally, a thing finished; in slang, a done deal. Used by negotiators to justify why they can’t make a desired change.

Good Cop/Bad Cop
A real or imagined authority figure who can accept or reject terms. Bad cop is usually not in the negotiation room and can be played by such roles as attorneys, auditors, government regulators, spouses, bosses, and the market place. You are not the one saying ‘No;” it is your Bad cop.

Relentless bargaining over an issue for the sole purpose of getting more/giving less, without concern for the relationship.

Hidden Agenda
An interest or goal that you want but that you don’t reveal to the other side, and in fact want to prevent the other side from learning.

Hot Buttons
The issues or ideas that are known to cause a person consternation and likely to produce an emotional reaction. 

A technique whereby one party poses a fictional situation that could exist but doesn’t, as a way to explore options or better understand the limits of someone’s authority or willingness to offer concessions.

Indirect Communication Style
Directly communicating negative information is seen as impolite and crude, even in a business setting. Instead polite excuses or evasions are given with recognition by both parties that a diplomatic strategy is being employed. Examples of cultures that employ an indirect communication style include Japanese, Chinese, Indians, and Saudi Arabians.

A party’s goals, needs and desires, which underlie a party’s demands or positions. (See also Section III: Framework for Collaborative Negotiations.)

Integrative Negotiation
A negotiation in which the parties work together to achieve a mutually beneficial agreement. Also known as win-win, interest-based and value-based negotiation.

Least Acceptable Agreement. The minimal conditions that make it still worth it to move forward with the solution or agreement, but anything less than the LAA results in no agreement.

Leading Questions
A question that is designed to generate only one possible answer.

That which is authoritative, official, authentic. Examples include written documents, standard terms and conditions, company policies, and price schedules that are perceived as more legitimate than the spoken word. They have a tendency to make things non-negotiable without you having to say “No.” (See also Section VI: Bargaining.)

Low Ball/High Ball
A tactic used to make an offer that is unreasonably low or high for the purpose of seeing if the other side can be fooled into paying/doing more/less than an informed negotiator would agree to.

Magical (or mystical) Math
A tactic that uses numbers, financial information, and other data points to justify a proposal where the analysis would not otherwise support the offer.

MEEP or MEEO, multiple economically equivalent proposals/offers
Presented simultaneously as offers with different terms, but which have equal economic value to you from which the other party can choose.

Most Desired Outcome. Often called the “ideal situation” you want to achieve in a negotiation. 

A small concession, maybe 1 or 2% of the total solution, which you get from the other side in return for concluding the negotiations with an agreement. Nibbles come at the very end of negotiations. If you get Nibbled, be sure to Nibble back.

Provide a term or condition for agreement and commitment that you are willing to be bound by and implement.

An open-ended question used to generate discussion and explore options. Used in the Information Exchange Stage to learn more about the other side, their interests and positions, to test assumptions, and see the opportunities to create value. Used in the Bargaining Stage to develop creative solutions that capture value. (See also Section VI: Bargaining.)

Poker Face
Not using your face to show the emotion you feel inside, whether it be anger, surprise, elation, fear, etc.

A party’s demands – what they say they want -- that are supported by interests. (See also Section III: Framework for Collaborative Negotiations.)

Puppy Dog
An old-school sales tactic used to entice interest by allowing the buyer to try out the product or service and simply return it if they are not satisfied. Unsure if you want to buy a puppy? Take it home and fall in love, and see if you can bear to return it.

Red Herring
A tactic used to divert a party’s attention from the real issue to something tangential or unrelated, allowing the diverting party to gain some advantage.

Relationship-oriented Culture
A cultural trait where emphasis is on group opinions and not on one or two expert opinions. Mature judgment, social skills, political acumen, and loyalty to the team are of high importance. Examples of relationship-oriented cultures include most of Latin America, eastern and southern Europe, Africa and the Middle East, and nearly all of Asia.

Reserved Communication Style
Cultures with a reserved communication style feel that the open expression of emotion, even at a point of great frustration or elation, is foolish, inappropriate, and immature. Examples of such cultures include Chinese, Japanese, and to a degree the English and northwestern Europeans.

Request for Information. Typically sent out by an organization when it wants to buy a product or service but first needs to learn more about what is available in the marketplace and which suppliers can best meet its needs.

Request for Proposals. Typically sent out by an organization that knows the marketplace for the product or service it wishes to buy, using this more formal process to learn how suppliers will respond to a specific set of requirements.

Request for Quotation. Often used by buyers and other purchasing professionals when acquiring commodities where price will be the main determining factor.

The process of using formal requests for information, proposals and price quotes. (See RFI, RFP, and RFQ above.)

Splitting the Difference
Taking the distance on an issue that stands between the latest positions and giving each side half. Can be a tactic to make you think you are getting an equitable result when in fact where the negotiation began was to the advantage of the other side.

A tactic that avoids reaching agreement by claiming without justification the need for more time.

Demonstrating by your actions or words that you are not open to new solutions. Some negotiators stonewall to see if the other side will capitulate.

People and organizations that have a vested interest in the outcome of the negotiation. They are rarely at the negotiating table, and are often not directly involved at all. 

An assessment of yours or the other side’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.

Measures taken to turn a negotiation to your advantage.

Task-oriented Culture
A cultural trait where the “good performer” or “successful” person is one who “gets the job done” efficiently through skillfully managing tasks and time. Examples of Task-oriented cultures include Australia, Germany, U.S. Americans and the Netherlands.

A threat of no agreement used to force closure, often expressed as “take it or leave it.”

What you need – as opposed to what you want. The least beneficial terms upon which a party could enter into an agreement. Also referred to as the LAA (Least Acceptable Alternative).

Literally the situation where a party abruptly leaves the negotiating room or “table” and refuses to return.  An example of an aggressive Crunch. (See also Section VII: Conclude and Execution.)

Winner’s Curse
Remorse after reaching agreement that you could have gotten better terms. For buyers and sellers, often referred to as buyer’s remorse and seller’s remorse.

Win-Lose Negotiating
Each party attempts to negotiate an agreement that benefits themselves at the expense of the other party. Also called distributive or concessional bargaining.

Win-Win Negotiating
A negotiation in which both parties strive to reach an agreement that satisfies everyone. Also called interest-based, value-based, and mutual gain negotiating.

Zero Sum-game Negotiation
See definition for
Distributive Negotiation.

Zone of Possible Agreement (also called the "bargaining range") exists if there is a potential agreement that would benefit all parties more than their alternative options.