The Importance of Negotiation Skills for Adolescents

Negotiation is the process where two people with different needs and goals discuss an issue to find a mutually acceptable solution. It is a skill, and some people are naturally better at it than others, but it is a skill that can be learned and improved. When a negotiation is done well, both people feel satisfied with the end result.

Some people think negotiation is only a skill that salesmen need, but in reality, we all use negotiation in our everyday lives. We must negotiate compromises with family members, friends, neighbors, and coworkers. Good negotiation skills will benefit your teen regardless of what career they pursue because good negotiations help build relationships, foster goodwill, deliver quality solutions to problems, and avoid future conflict. Your teen will use negotiation skills to manage conflicts with their college roommate, obtain a better salary for their job, and maintain a peaceful home with their spouse.

Here are the key elements to teach your teen the skill of negotiation:

Keep the Right Attitude.

Negotiation is most successful when done respectfully with a focus on understanding everyone’s viewpoint. Teens must learn good people skills to handle negotiation well, such as:

  • Treat the other person as you would like to be treated.
  • Actively listen to the other person – which means focusing on understanding their viewpoint and restating it in your own words, rather than trying to figure out how to put their idea down and explain your opinion.
  • Speak respectfully, which means no name calling, yelling, blaming, accusing or threatening.
  • Separate the person from the problem. Don’t attack the person, but join forces with the person to attack the problem as a team. In other words, shift your mindset from defining the conflict as “me against you” to “you and I against the problem.”


Ask Open-Ended Questions.

Good negotiators ask a lot of questions in order to understand exactly what the other person is trying to achieve from the negotiation and what is important to them. For example, in a sale, price is not always the most important part of the package. Benefits the customer receives through the purchase can be equally important. You must understand what the other person really wants in order to effectively negotiate.

Over Prepare.

Experts say that preparation accounts for 90% of negotiating success. First get all the information that you can about the upcoming negotiation. Asking those open-ended questions mentioned above is a major part of preparing for the negotiation, but also do some research about the issue and what experts say about it. Second, think the negotiation through carefully, from beginning to end, and be fully prepared for any eventuality. The person will the most information and best understanding of all sides of the problem will have facts to fall back on when challenged and possible solutions others may not have considered.

Silence Can Be Your Friend

Sometimes, when we’re nervous in asking for what we want, we talk to fill the silence, which can work against you. Overexplaining yourself makes you look less confident and puts the other person in the position of power over you. Silence makes the other person uncomfortable and they will likely try to fill the space. Experts recommend that after you have asked questions to determine what the other person wants, make sure you state your goals and needs concisely and then stay silent.

Work Towards a Win-Win Outcome

Skilled negotiators are usually quite concerned about finding a solution or an arrangement that is satisfactory to both parties. The ultimate goal of a negotiation is to achieve a “win-win” outcome. This is when both sides feel that they have gained something positive and that their point of view has been taken into consideration. Most of the time, working towards a mutually acceptable solution through brainstorming alternative strategies will achieve greater benefit for everyone involved compared to any one person holding on to their original position.

Final thoughts…

Learning to be a good negotiator will help your teen find better solutions to problems, avoid conflict, and build better relationships. Negotiation skills take practice so encourage your teen to use them within the family first. When it becomes more natural, they can use these skills with teachers, coaches, and peers. Remind your teen that they are trying to find solutions that will leave all sides feeling understood and satisfied with the outcome.

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