A Negotiation Phrasebook- 14 Phrases That Let You Be Hard on the Problem, Soft on the Person | Professor Freeman

Imagine you are about to try to negotiate with your supervisor for a budget increase. Or that you are about to confront a car dealer about a noisy transmission, or that you need to convince your companion to postpone your vacation together. What should you say? You are worried: what if the words you use sound too demanding, or too weak? You can strike the right balance by using one or more of these fourteen phrases that let you signal you want to be “hard on the problem, soft on the person”…^^

Here are 14 useful phrases. Once you memorize and use one successfully, try saying it in your own words in later negotiations so it’s more your own.-


  1. “I’m sure we’ll find a solution we’re both happy with.”
  2. “I want to be fair, and I know you do too.”
  3. “I have some ideas that may help us both, and I want to hear yours.”

When Things Are Going Badly

  1. “I know we’re having a rough time of it right now, but I’m still confident we can find a good agreement…”
  2. “I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think we could solve this together.”
  3. “We’re on the same side here. If we work together, we can…[beat the competition/make this report look great/win the contract/etc.]”
  4. “Why don’t we each take some time and think about what we’ve discussed and resume next week….”

Showing Strength and Saying No

  1. “I’m happy to talk about creative ways to handle this as long as we address my concern that…”
  2. “While I [do have another offer/will reluctantly report this matter to the government if I must], I’d love to work things out with you if we can…”
  3. “While I can’t [tell you that/give you that/agree to that], I can [tell you/give you something] that may help address you concern…”
  4. “I generally make it a rule not to discuss [my current salary], but I’m sure we’ll find a fair one for this [new job] when the time comes.” (Note: If pressed, you may need to give your salary data.)

Responding to Objections

  1. “I thought you might raise that concern- understandably- so I did some research. I found that…”
  2. “Help me understand your concerns….”
  3. “You’re right, that could be a problem. Let’s see what creative ideas might help us solve it.”