How to Make the Most of a Good Faith Negotiation


In a good faith negotiation, hope is high and relationships are great! 

What’s wrong with that? Hope is not a strategy.  

Keep reading to learn how to keep yourself from getting blindsided and losing when you find yourself in the throes of a good faith negotiation.

Good Faith Negotiation


Remember: No One Is a Mind Reader

Based on the circumstances, you have reason to believe that the motives of the other side are honorable. You know they desire a long-term relationship in which you both prosper. You feel they mean what they say. 

As a result, it’s likely that the interaction is rife with assumptions, and people are acting as if their counterparts are mind readers. (They may be acting as if the members of their own internal team are mind readers as well.)

This will lead to both sides dropping their guard in terms of implementation. There will also be lack of follow-up by both sides internally in keeping their own team on track.

Hope is not a strategy

Does your negotiation strategy fit their personality? Use this guide to  negotiate successfully with anyone »

Forbidding the Use of the Word ‘Hope’ 

Interestingly enough, there are some businesses that actually forbid the use of the word “hope” because removing it causes them to focus on planning and implementation.

How can you deal with this without “forbidding hope”? Summarize frequently (with everyone) and anticipate land mines with Calibrated Questions™.

Remember, vision drives action. 

Calibrated Questions reveal and shape vision. If you want to shape your counterpart’s action, first shape their vision.


Reveal and Shape

What stands in our way?

How does that affect things?

What’s the biggest challenge we face?

How has that caused problems in the past?

How have things broken down in the past?

How can we overcome that?

How has that caused problems in the past?

How has that slowed things down?

What do we see as the way ahead?

How do we get on that track?

What are the next steps?

How will we get them done?

Who is taking the next steps?

When will they occur?

When will we hear back from you?

How will you get back to us?

What is our timeline?

How will we accomplish it?

How will we know if we are on track?

How will we address being off-track?


Beware the Deal Killers  

One of The Black Swan Group’s Laws of Negotiation Gravity™ is this: There is always a team on the other side.  

Deal killers are often the biggest impediment to implementation. As discussed in the past, the deal killer will be one of two types. 

Type 1: The sidelined negotiator  

This is someone who feels they should have been handling the negotiations in the first place. Internal counsel (i.e., lawyers) they may have on their payroll often fit this description.  That’s frequently why the “terms and conditions” phase is so difficult to get through—and such a great destroyer of profitability.  

Type 2: The users and implementers 

These are the people who will either be using the services and products secured by the negotiation or will be responsible for implementing the deal.   

You will likely not have direct access to the deal killer. But repeatedly (and “innocently”) asking your point of contact these Calibrated Questions in a gentle fashion will cause them to loop the deal killer in.

Calibrated Questions focused on implementation create vision for the deal killer.  All of a sudden, they now see themselves as part of the process.

How do you light the implementation fire—and keep it lit? 

Remind everyone of the risks and costs of comfortable inaction. There is a great quote from John F. Kennedy: There are risks and costs to a program of action. But they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction.

Calibrated Questions Focused on the Costs of Inaction

So how do we get the other side to think about inaction? These Calibrated Questions should get them thinking in the right direction:

  • What is lost if we don’t get this done?
  • What happens if we don’t meet the timeline?
  • What happens if we do nothing?
  • What happens if we fail?

To sum it all up: Vision drives action. 

Calibrated Questions reveal and shape vision. If you want to shape their action, shape their vision.

The Black Swan Group wants you to succeed!

Check out our free guide, Three Negotiator Types, to learn more about the person who’ll be sitting across the table from you next time.

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Chris Voss

About The Author

Christopher Voss is the CEO of The Black Swan Group, a firm that solves business negotiation problems with hostage negotiation strategies. Chris founded the Black Swan Group, in 2008 upon his retirement from the FBI where he was the FBI’s lead international kidnapping negotiator. Chris is also an Adjunct Professor at the University of Southern California (USC) Marshall School of Business and Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business where he teaches business negotiation in both M.B.A. programs.