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Disciplines > Negotiation > The eight-stage negotiation process > Signal

Show readiness to move | Wait for their signal | Move towards concession | See also

The process stages: Prepare - Open - Argue - Explore - Signal - Package - Close - Sustain


Signaling is a relatively short phase of activity in which (usually) both parties prepare to move from their initial position. After early positions and explorations, signaling is a conciliatory move that indicates a willingness to negotiate.

Show readiness to move

A signal is a subtle indicator to the other person that you may be willing to negotiate. This is seldom done openly as this would contradict the opening and argument. Signaling is not making a verbal statement and effectively saves face, providing an excuse to subsequently move from your original position (or to backtrack if the other person is not ready to collaborate).

Qualify statements

Add qualifiers that indicate how you might just be persuaded to do something that you would not normally do, or that you may agree to something other than what you originally wanted.

I might be persuaded, but I'd have to think first.

I don't normally buy things on the same day.

Indicate possibility

Use words that indicate possibility, opening out the potential for a different future that you may have painted in your opening statement.

I wonder if there is a way we can agree this?

There may be a way I could stay longer tomorrow.

Use open body language

Open body language sends even more subtle signals of readiness, with indications of welcome (such as open arms) and relaxed, smiling face.

Body signaling can be enhanced by starting with closed body language and then moving to an open position at the same time that you use verbal signaling. Use gestures that move in time with your signals. Match the other person's movements to show empathy.

Wait for their signal

When you have signaled to the other person, the next step is to wait for them to signal in return.

Watch their non-verbal response to your signal

Watch their face when you signal. Are there signs of hope appearing? Do they seem to have recognized that you have gone from arguing your case towards moving towards them.

Also watch their body language. When you signal, does their stance change? When you move from matching their body language to a more open position, do they follow you?

Hear the signals

Listen for their verbal signals. Hear the tone of voice that they use. Is it more relaxed? Are they using qualifiers and indicating possibility?

Do not concede

If they do not signal, it can be tempting to try something more overt, such as conceding on something. It can seem that they are blind to signals and if you move to concession, then they will get this signal and concede in return. But what you have actually done by this is to show that if you make a move and they do not reciprocate, then you will give something more. This is simply encouragement for them to wait for more concessions.

Perhaps I could reduce the price a bit.
Well, ok then, how about if I knocked 10% off?

Do not reward intransigence with concession. If they do not signal (and maybe they do lack the subtlety to recognize signals), then first try signaling again. If this does not succeed, be more explicit: ask whether they are ready to make some trades. If they say no, then you can probe for reasons why. If they refuse, then you may start to deploy your walk-away.

Move towards concession

When you have got a signal indicating they might also be prepared to negotiate, then there may be a steady or even more rapid movement towards offering concessions or packaging.

Respond to their signals

When they signal in return (or maybe they signaled first), respond with open body language and responding with a further encouraging signal. Show that you approve of their movement by rewarding them with more attention and acceptance.

Frame togetherness

Start to frame the negotiation as a joint problem-solving situation, positioning the subsequent activity as working together to find an equitable solution.

I think we're beginning to see eye-to-eye. All we need to do now is find some way of bridging the difference. I'm sure we can reach a good conclusion today.

See also

Open body language, Qualifiers, Possibility with verbs


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