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What are the Steps in the Negotiation Process?

By Mandi Rogier
Updated May 23, 2024
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The negotiation process is a complex series of actions that seeks to provide a mutually agreeable outcome to two dissenting parties. Formal negotiations may take place with the assistance of a trained mediator who serves as an impartial third party in navigating the issues at hand. For a professional negotiator, the process may follow a series of definitive steps. Negotiations can also take place on a more informal level, however, and the process in these instances can become less structured.

The first step in any negotiation process involves understanding the issue at hand. This step often takes place before the two parties enter into formal talks. Each side must come into the negotiations with a clear idea of what the conflict is and what he wants to gain from the proceedings.

Once in negotiations, the next step is for each side to present his case. This involves explaining what the individual’s goal is, what he wants to gain, and what he is willing to offer up in return. Both sides must listen to each other for the negotiations to proceed successfully. If a mediator is present, he will take careful note of these proceedings in order to offer up creative solutions that may work for both parties.

The bulk of the negotiation process is a continuous back and forth of ideas, options, and even arguments between the two sides. The first solution offered up is rarely the final choice. This part of the process varies greatly depending on the type of negotiations taking place. If a negotiator is involved, he will direct this stage of the process by offering various solutions and continuously working with both parties to find a mutually acceptable agreement.

This step of the negotiation process, where the dissenting parties take time to explore various solutions, may take place over several sessions. Business negotiations for a large corporation may take weeks before an acceptable solution is found. For smaller negotiations, such as inter-office issues between two coworkers, this step may be much easier, involving only a brief discussion before an agreement is met.

Once the process of finding a solution is completed, negotiations enter into the final steps of the process. The agreement is clearly laid out for both parties, often with a written contract. This document is reviewed thoroughly and amended as needed until it meets the satisfaction of all involved. Once the contract has been accepted and signed by both parties, the steps laid out within must be completed.

The final step in the negotiation process is fulfilling the agreement. This may be as simple as trading goods and parting ways. In more complex negotiations, the solution may be a more long term commitment, or a working partnership between two parties. If at any point the agreement no longer works for one or both parties, negotiations may begin again at the beginning to amend the contract and find a better, more sustainable, solution.

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Discussion Comments
By Crimea — On Nov 14, 2013

I completely agree. Negotiation skills are gained primarily through practice. When people take a class on negotiations, there is actually very little theory that goes into it. Most of the material and expertise is learned through just being paired against classmates, given a certain situation, and negotiating it from a certain side. This is the best way to learn.

Most people do have to do negotiations at some point in their life, most often contract negotiation or salary negotiation and learning how be effective at this can be very beneficial.

By Shevardnadze — On Nov 13, 2013

Amiable negotiations where both sides are looking for the deal that will increase the pie for both parties create the most value and lead to the best outcome for all involved. A lot of people make the mistake of walking into a negotiation with a hostile attitude and this is one of the worst things that you can do. This is especially useful for the union negotiation process as any amount of striking is more expensive and detrimental than trying to find a mutually beneficial agreement. Sometimes an arbitrator may be brought in to mediate a negotiation that has turned hostile and a true working relationship no longer exists.

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