10 Steps to Successful Negotiations

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There are ten things to consider before beginning any bartering session. These are all part of the planning phase. By taking the time to go over each one prior to your bartering session, you will improve your negotiation skills and final outcome.

Playing Poker

You may think that in a bartering situation the last thing that will be on your mind is gambling, however, there is a very important poker strategy that you should always keep in mind when bartering and that is the classic bluff.

To successfully bluff, you must know without a doubt how much you are willing to lose and just what you stand to gain. Before any bartering session decide what a winning hand is and what will make you fold and walk away. If you have these touchstones in mind before you begin, you will know without a doubt what you should do no matter how the bartering session unfolds. If you wait until you are actively bartering you may get caught up in the moment and end up with far less than you want, or even more importantly, less than you need.


Continuing the poker analogy, you must know what your ante is going to be for any given bartering session. Ideally you will let the other person make the opening offer, so you can determine just how interested they are in the item(s) you have available for trade. If your bartering opponent is determined for you to begin the negotiations say something like, “I’d love for you to make it a gift, and I’m sure you’d like for me to give you everything I have; what’s a deal you can live with?”

Your Extras Always keep in mind a few extras that you’d be willing to part with that may have little value to you but great value to others. You can use these items to up your ante without really sacrificing your overall profit. Consider knowledge that you have and are willing or able to share. You could offer someone lessons in a skill you have mastered or time with a book that has specialized knowledge of an important resource such as maps, first aid books, or an almanac.

Their Extras

Consider things they may have to offer that will not hurt their supply or stockpile in any meaningful way but that will considerably impact your supply situation or knowledge base. Consider their knowledge base the same way you considered yours when determining the extras you were willing to offer.

You may also want to consider items that have a high value to you but little value to others. For example if you are going to be canning produce, you may be able to take items that aren’t as fresh as other individuals may require. If your bartering partner has a limited market for what he or she is offering it will greatly improve your ability to negotiate a price that is favorable for you.

Know Your Opponent

In any situation, it is always best to know as much about your opponent as possible. While you may not like to think of the person you are bartering with as an opponent, in reality they are. You both have objectives and the possibility to score a great deal or to have a great loss. However, this doesn’t mean that they have to lose for you to win. Take the time to learn about what your opponent needs and try to find ways to give it to him or her with minimal cost to yourself.


A win-win arrangement is the very best result for a bartering session. Always look for ways to make this happen because it will change the interaction from a simple deal into a relationship that could be very useful in the future, and it will allow you to achieve your own objectives while also helping someone else. Ending on a good note will make your opponent much more likely to strike a deal with you in the future and give you a better chance at more successful trades with them.

For example, if you know someone needs a tree cleared off his land and you need firewood for the coming winter, an arrangement can be easily made. You offer to help cut the tree down or cut it by yourself and in exchange you get to keep the cut firewood. In this situation your labor is provided in exchange for a good. Both parties get exactly what they want without either one conceding anything other than time and effort.

Sometimes simply looking at the situation of those around you will allow you to target the best person to approach for a specific bartering request that will provide an opportunity to make both parties feel like they got the better end of the bargain.


As always, it is important to know before beginning what you are willing to concede. goal should always be to minimize any concessions you make because giving them to your opponent will train them to think your initial offer is never to be accepted.

If you must make concessions to complete a transaction be sure to draw them out as long as possible. Each subsequent concession should be smaller than the first, and they should always be accompanied by a concession by the other party. You never want your opponent to think they will be able to get something from you while offering nothing in return. In essence you are looking for a quid pro quo or this for that arrangement.

Split the Difference

Splitting the difference is something the other party will almost always suggest and something you should usually avoid. In a perfect bartering situation you will never concede to something that doesn’t benefit you and cost your opponent an equal if not greater price. There are times, though, that splitting the difference may be the only option, especially if you are trading for something that you can not do with out and that you could not find elsewhere.

Time and Location

Choosing the right environment for a bartering session can help improve your outcome. The best location is, of course, your own home turf. It will put you at a psychological advantage if nothing else and may provide a security advantage depending on the situation. The next best location is one on neutral territory such as a co-op, trade show, or farmer’s market type of environment.

As for time, if the bartering will take place in an event type setting it is often beneficial to go towards the end of the event. The sellers are often at their most agreeable then because they are either happy with the sales they made and are less worried about their bottom line, they haven’t reached their goals and are desperate to trade, or they are too tired to want to pack up and go home with the items they set out to trade.


Emotions are often the downfall of many bartering sessions. This is true for both you and your opponent so it is equally important that you be aware of both. If you are emotionally invested in what you are bartering for you may give too much away to obtain it. Likewise, if your opponent is emotionally invested in what you are offering they may be willing to give you far more than they normally would for a similarly valued item.

The problem with emotional bartering is that the trigger is that people are different and no one has the same trigger. For example a woman may be emotionally attached to the idea of chocolate, bubble baths, a favorite perfume, or some type of pampering item. A man may be emotionally attached to a particular type of liquor, cigars or cigarettes, knives, or specialty guns. Yes, these are stereotypical items but they become stereotypes typically stem from a seed of truth. Men and women are emotionally attached to different things, so it is important to find out what your opponent is emotionally invested in and try to provide it. It is equally as important to make sure that you know your own emotional triggers and how to keep from acting out of emotion instead of logic.