Is there such thing as a win-win negotiation?

Here’s the truth: in order to win the game of life, you must be able to persuade.

More specifically, you must be able to persuade people to say, “Yes.”

That’s the core, after all, of negotiation — of gaining support for your game-changing idea, your political campaign, or your vision for your company.

Negotiation is, in this sense, a matter of inspiring. Of inspiring people on your team to follow you into boardroom battle, of inspiring a client to choose your software solution, or of inspiring your kid to do his chores. It’s a matter of making people believe not only in you, but in the logic of your solution or offer.

But the question, of course, is how exactly to persuade and negotiate so effectively? And even tougher, how do you do it both effectively and ethically? Because what good is winning if you have to cheat, or lie, or mislead?

This is something I’ve thought about a lot over the course of my career. And I’ve learned that there are certain universal strategies and mindsets you can adopt to give you a leg up when you sit down at the bargaining table.

Here are a few of the most impactful.

Don’t focus on yourself

The first mistake people make when entering into negotiations is giving into the urge to talk primarily about themselves.

It’s understandable. You want to detail for your listener all the great things you’ve accomplished, or all the impressive merits of your new idea — why the idea is so powerful.

But this is a mistake because, ultimately, people don’t care about the idea itself. What they really care about is how the idea benefits them. How it might improve their lives or solve a problem for them, their customers, or their constituents.

Which is why it’s better, instead, to listen during negotiations

This is how you’ll identify, after all, what it is the person on the other side of the table truly wants.

Focusing on that aspect of identification is the fundamental key to winning negotiations.

It should be your first goal, your first priority — shutting your mouth and striving, instead, to understand what the other person wants from the discussion, what their goals and desires are, and, one step further, why they possess those goals, dreams, and wants.

That’s critical context.


Well, for one thing, it gives you leverage and, in turn, a certain strategic advantage. It enables you to tailor your messaging in order to illuminate for your listener why agreeing with you or following you is in fact in their best interest — why it might alleviate their fears, solve their problems, or otherwise help them in achieving their goals.

This is a much more powerful means of approaching critical conversations. The catch is, it requires humility and shutting off the ego. It requires self-awareness and self-regulation. It’s harder, but it’s worth it. It sets you up for success.

Which leads to our last step.

Once you’ve listened and identified what the other person wants — and why — only then do you begin negotiating

Here’s the truth: if people believe you can solve their problems and improve their situation, they’ll follow you wherever you want them to go.

That means you should only ever begin negotiating — presenting your argument, your idea, etc. — after you have a firm understanding of what inspires the person you’re talking to. What matters to them.

Equipped with that knowledge, you can design your offering so as to resonate most effectively.

The key, again, is prioritizing empathy over pride — listening instead of bragging, seeking to understand instead of making yourself understood.

Remember, though: this only works if your ambitions are pure and ethical. Everyone will see through you if what you’re trying to persuade them of only benefits you and your interests.

No, you need to be both empathetic and ethical.

If you can do that, not only will you become a better negotiator, but a better parent, spouse, and friend, too.

This article was originally published on Quora.