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The Right Time to Negotiate


Disciplines > Negotiation > Negotiation articles > The Right Time to Negotiate

Time of day | Time of week | Proximity to events | See also


When you negotiate can have a significant effect on the proceedings of the negotiation, as it can affect how alert people are, how interested they are, etc. If you can choose when negotiations happen, you can thus influence how the proceedings will go.

Time of day

The time of day when negotiations happen affects how alert and attentive people are.

Early morning

Negotiating first thing is first of all affected by the rest and wakefulness of the other person. If they are not fully awake, as many of us are not, then they will be less challenging in their argument. If they are well-rested and awake, then you will have better attention.

Early in the morning, people are not so stressed by the rigors of the day, although they may be distracted and stressed by the thought of work to come. People who are stressed will think less about the negotiation, which may be a good or bad thing for you.

People are usually somewhat more alert after eating breakfast. A breakfast meeting can be useful, as it combines the act of waking up with the act of thinking. Even the sight of something to eat can wake them up. A cup of coffee or tea contains caffeine, which also serves to stimulate.

Late morning

By late morning, the day is in full swing and either a sense of achievement and goodwill will have been developed by what has been done, or stress and frustration will have developed at what has not been done or the additional load that has been taken on.

Late morning, thoughts may be turning to lunch as the energy intake from breakfast is depleted and cognitive ability and attention span may be reduced.


At lunch, people are more relaxed and may be more open to discussion and negotiation. If you buy lunch for them, you will set up an exchange whereby they may concede more to you during the negotiation.

Early afternoon

In the post-prandial period after lunch, we feel sleepy as our digestive systems have more need for blood than our brains. This less alert may be a period when we are susceptible to suggestion (or maybe just not interested in negotiation).

Late afternoon

Later in the afternoon, we get the dual effect of energy from lunch and exhaustion from the day. If we are in a work environment, we may be watching the clock. Negotiation can be effective when people are itching to leave, as they will agree to anything to get out of the door!

Generally speaking, some people are more amenable and ready in the morning, whilst others are more ready in the afternoon or even evening. If you can identify the best time for negotiation with the other person, then you can achieve a more effective result.


Dinner is often a more relaxed affair than lunch, as there is typically no real effort afterwards and you can slide gently towards bed. This can make it a good time for subtle persuasion. Many proposals (and acceptances!) of marriage are, unsurprisingly, made over the dinner table. With a comfortably full stomach and seductively low lighting, we may be open to suggestions that we might otherwise reject.


Before or after dinner, the evening may normally be spent relaxing with friends and family. In this comfortable and trusting environment we may feel ready to negotiate without hurry, although if someone enters our home to sell to us, we may feel somewhat defensive.

Time of week

As well as during the day, we are differently affected across the week.

Monday morning

On Monday morning we may be feeling a bit dozy (possibly good for negotiation) or grumpy (not so good). The week's work may be looming ahead (not so good) or not yet arrived (probably good).

In other words, before you start to negotiate with someone on Monday morning, check whether they are grumpy and distracted or relaxed and ready. Then either flex your style to suit the other person or change the time to a period when the other person is more amenable to the negotiation.


Tuesday is often a good day, particularly in the morning. The week is under way and people have got over any Monday blues, and have also not yet started to tire with the weight of the week's work.


Wednesday can also be a good day, although the week may be beginning to weigh down on the person. The weekend may seem a long way off and the work may well be mounting up. On the other hand, the other person may also be in full flow and not yet slowing down for the weekend.

On Thursday, this effect can be exaggerated, with greater tiredness from work or excitement at the impending weekend which is now in sight. If the other person has goals to reach by the end of the week, then depending on how they are doing, they may be relaxed or anxious and focused.

Friday afternoon

Friday afternoon has an even more exaggerated effect. The other person may be completely relaxed and either happy to negotiate or only too ready to put it off until after the weekend.

They may also be working very hard to complete work for the end of the week, which can mean that you can get agreement to all kinds of things as they seek to get back to their main task.


At the weekend, people are often at their most relaxed. Domestic issues now take over from work issues and negotiations about home aspects may be uppermost in their mind. Depending on the extend to which they take their work home, they may entertain work-related ideas or they may be completely switched off about work.

Other considerations

Attention availability

When a person is engaged in some other activity or where they are otherwise distracted, then someone starting to negotiate with them requires attention that they do not want to give and is probably unwelcome. This may well trigger some form of fight-or-flight reaction.

If they are likely to fight, then negotiation is probably not a good idea and you should delay until they are more ready to listen to you.

If they have a flight reaction, then a typical response is satisficing, where they seek any solution to reduce the stress -- including making concessions to you. Where their later regret or anger is unimportant to you, then this can be a lever you can use.

Proximity to events

When a significant event is looming, from holidays to a difficult task, then the proximity of this event can have a noticeable effect on the attention of the other person. If they have a short-term focus, then right before the event is the best time. If they can imagine into the future, and most of us can, then reminding them of the impending event can create the attention you need.

The way people react here may well depend on how they forecast threats and their risk bias. When they are risk-seeking then they may look forward to danger, and when they are risk-avoiding, then the thought of impending hazard will scare them silly.

See also

Exchange principle, Attention principle, Bonding principle

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