Does Good Negotiation Require Big Risk?

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Does Good Negotiation Require Big Risk?

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Negotiation skills and managing risk are critical in many job roles. During my career I’ve met plenty of people who are energized by risk, and plenty of people who are so risk adverse that despite having tremendous talent, they achieve very little. If you are going to be successful at negotiation do you need to have the audacity to take big risks?


We often see negotiation scenes in movies. We see it in movies based on true stories like the deal slaying stock broker film, The Wolf of Wall Street, (2013). We also see it in the high intensity hostage negotiation film, Bridge of Spies, (2015). While both of these films are based on true stories, any risk associated with real world negotiation should be carefully calculated.

In business transactions whether it is negotiating on salary or closing a multi-million dollar deal the best negotiators always examine risk compared with the benefits or potential gain. Sometimes the benefits will be measured in short-term value, in other cases it might be long-term value, or in still other cases it will be some combination of both. In nearly all cases the benefits cannot be fully realized without extensive information which makes the evaluation of risk a carefully calculated process.

Information and Risk

The risk factor lessens with more information, but more information is about quality and is always balanced with timeliness and effectiveness, as most would quickly realize too much information can create analysis paralysis. Managing information wisely, you can evaluate whether it supports your direction or it does not. If it doesn’t, you probably don’t want to take on too much risk. On the other hand, if you have information that does support your direction you may make what appears to be a big move, but because it has been carefully calculated the risk is not really as big as it seems.

Any information and past experience used for effective negotiation needs to be based on facts. Listening skills and other factors definitely come into play when considering risk. Often when people speak they are speaking more in terms of opinions instead of facts. Discussions in negotiations are often subject to judgment by those involved. The more compelling the discussion, the more factual it may feel even though the expressions may be those of opinions and not facts. Keep in mind that good negotiators focus on building a win/win outcome, not capitalizing on or intending to create a win/lose opportunity.

Big Risk

Big risk in negotiation should most likely be left for the movie scenes. Good negotiators are very calculated and have extensive experience, and while experience builds confidence it does not necessarily improve the negotiators effectiveness. In the best negotiations whether it is for annual salary, sales, or the boardroom, negotiators are using a variety of skills, experience, and information to create winning (win/win) deals.

Based on my experiences, good negotiation requires calculated, not necessarily big risk.


Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and coach that specializes in helping businesses and individuals accelerate their leadership, their team, and their success. He is the author of the newly released book, Forgotten Respect, Navigating A Multigenerational Workforce. Reach him through his website at or by calling +1 646.546.5553.

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