Principles of Good Negotiating

By Attorney Howard Iken: Lets face it. People never walk in the door and hand us money just to reserve our “pleasant personalities.” After all, we are attorneys. No one really likes us outside of our own clients.  But that is an essential part of being an attorney. We get things done, sometimes at the expense of other people.

But part of our job is to negotiate settlements for clients. The fact is that only one out of every hundred cases end up at trial. The rest settle. That fact requires us to become excellent negotiators.  I consider myself an excellent negotiator. Today, and today only, I am in the mood to release for public view my exclusive …..


Seven Principles of Great Negotiation



Always carry a giant, thorny club behind your back when talking to the other side. Because it is a dangerous thorny club – never actually pull it out. But be sure to hold it mostly behind your back while making it easy to spot when speaking to the opposition. The main idea is to create a vision in the other person’s head that a giant, thorny club will be pressed into service if negotiations go poorly. When you are simultaneously negotiating and holding your giant, thorny club – be sure to wear a giant thorny smile. The combination will always serve you well.



“Buy now at this special price because quantities are limited.”  You hear that all the time in cheesy infomercials. But the funny thing is that hearing a special may not be available tomorrow causes an urgent buying instinct in many of us. Marketing scientists call it the principle of scarcity. The same instinct can be used in negotiations.  You must paint a picture that your resources and patience are running low and your motivation to settle will run out any moment.  If everyone thinks that one-day after mediation becomes the point of no return; everyone suddenly has an increased urge to settle.  Cheesy marketing is based on solid science. So should your negotiations.



Stop spilling your guts. Not only is it not pretty, but spilling your guts is never helpful to your case. Do not give out information to the other side unless doing so is absolutely essential to your case.   A negotiation is not the time to surrender valuable information to the other side. If you cannot keep from talking, be sure to bring several apples to your negotiation. Jam one in your mouth each time you get an urge to spill your guts.



Master the art of not caring. To get a good settlement, you must be willing to walk away without an agreement. This requires a skilled combination of attitude, facial expressions, and body language. You must never appear desperate to settle because your eventual deal will immediately be cut in half. Before any negotiation or mediation, spend at least an hour in front of a mirror mastering the look of “I don’t care.” The better your “I don’t care” skills, the better the eventual deal.


Meaningful negotiation involves conflicts. The person who has a strong need to be liked, or who tends to avoid conflict, is likely to be at a disadvantage. Very recently, I received results of a personality test that indicated I have little interest in receiving the approval of others, and that I have no need to be liked. I like that.



Make the other side wish they will never see your face again. As an attorney, I like to convince the other side that it would not be a pleasant thing if they had to see me in the future.  The less they want to see me again – the more they want an agreement in place.  This never fails to be one of the better negotiating techniques.



Think on your feet and don’t look back. Excellent negotiation is like a fast game of racquetball. Negotiation demands fast thinking, quick movement, and fancy footwork. You must be willing to quickly abandon old positions to move into new positions. You must be willing to make instant decisions. There is no time for an hour of reflection in a good negotiation. The best negotiators are quick and they never look back.


I have never failed to thoroughly enjoy a good, successful negotiation. I tell people negotiation is a contact sport. If done correctly, that comparison is absolutely true. Just remember the basics, keep your thorny club at hand, give a toothy smile, and move like a racquetball player.  Never spill your guts, and don’t worry about being liked. Just follow my seven steps and you will be on your way to a successful settlement of your case.


** In case you have not figured it out, this article was intended to be humorous. But the principles are grounded in fact and can help you become a better negotiator.

Our Attorneys Are Ready to Fight for You!

Ayo and Iken Attorneys Florida

Over the past 14 years Ayo & Iken has helped over 5,000 people just like you


Or email message to:

Free Consultation is limited to individuals considering hiring an attorney.  Not all situations qualify.  Fee charged for appellate case evaluations.