Relationship-based concession techniques work well in workplace negotiations because they minimize the conflict inherent in competitive, self-centered negotiating, and serve to maintain relationships rather than sever them.

These techniques set the stage for reaching a fair compromise based on an open exchange of viewpoints and concerns. When supported by logical principle, explainable contingencies, objective standards and sound backup, relationship-based approaches build relationships and agreements that can endure even under severe organizational changes.

One of these techniques is to not be in a hurry to make the first concession. After the initial offer and counteroffer, the gap between parties is at its largest. The pressure on both sides is to say or do something that will bring them closer. Both, at this early stage, are somewhat apprehensive that the other will not respond by narrowing the gap in some way.

My advice at this point in the negotiation is to resist the pressure to make the first concession. By waiting you may learn how strongly the other side feels about the matter at hand. Those who make the first concessions early in negotiation signal that they are overly concerned about settling the matter and anxious to move toward resolution.

I am reminded of a story in Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe. Robinson, anxious to exchange what he possessed with a native for food, makes an offer. They talk and talk. The native shows no desire for Robinson’s goods and makes no counteroffer in return. Robinson grows more anxious and makes his first concession. He describes how desperate he becomes at the native’s reticence and disinterest. Later, when the native finally makes his first counteroffer, Robinson describes his intense relief at hearing the native’s first glimmer of interest in possible exchange.

Your first concession is important, especially if it involves a major issue. On minor issues it is not as crucial. It may in fact be helpful to show that you are open-minded and flexible about your position or the difference at issue.

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