by sonja thorsvik

On Becoming More Powerful Through Negotiation

I first learned the power of negotiation when I visited Spain as a teenager. I simply had to have this ‘really cool’ keychain souvenir and couldn’t afford it, but there was no way I was leaving without it swinging from my backpack. Spoiler alert, I got it for less than half price AND a free bracelet. Either I was a budding negotiating genius, the guy was nuts, or a little bit of both…

Negotiating is one of those things that’s absolutely essential in business—but also absolutely terrifying and intimidating if you’re not sure how to do it. Plus, if you’re anything like I used to be, negotiating brings up visions of boardrooms, suits, and rock-solid contracts that seem a little out of your knowledge range. Do you feel that, too?

When you really think about it though, negotiation is, quite honestly, ensuring that both you and your client are reaching a deal that makes sense for both of you, that’s beneficial to both of you, and that both of you deserve.

That’s really it.

The thing is, negotiating is simply part of running an effective business, making consistent sales, landing your ideal clients and projects, and scaling your business like you deserve. When you finally start to understand the art of a great negotiation, it all becomes much simpler and a lot less scary, I promise.

Over my years in business, I’ve done my fair share of negotiating (from both sides of the table), and have gathered some tips and techniques that are sure to help you refine your negotiation skills.

01. Listen Like Your Business Depends On It

The No. 1 tip I can give to anyone looking to negotiate a deal? Keep your mouth shut and your ears open. When you let the other person do all of the talking, you give them the illusion of having all of the control—but really, it gives you more time to consider a reaction. The more they talk, the more you’ll be able to understand what it is that they want, too—which is truly key to defining your desired outcome right along with theirs.

When you go into a negotiation, the other party is most likely expecting you to come in just like they are—ready to discuss, argue if necessary, and debate the issue at hand. When you’re quiet and let them do all of the talking, they are more likely to continue offering up information that can give you a leg-up.

Think of it like being at a car dealership, right? If you continue to let the car salesman talk without much of a dialogue from you, the salesman is much more likely to start offering you things that might make you more willing to buy the car from them. It’s simple reverse psychology.

02. Control Your Reactions

So much of an artful negotiation lies in reading the room, regardless of what side of the negotiation you might find yourself on. You should be quick to notice the other party’s facial expressions and body language, and you should expect them to be looking at yours as well. 

Focus on having a neutral facial expression, relaxed arms, and a calm tone of voice. Don’t give up any power by becoming upset or raising your voice—and be able to read the other party enough to be able to tell if they become upset, too.

By using your people-reading skills to your advantage—and controlling your own emotions and expressions—you can come out on the other side of your negotiation with your desired outcome much more reliably. Keeping emotions and expressions level is also the best way to ensure that the conversation is constructive, too—no one wants a dramatic negotiation. It’s rarely necessary!

03. Ask Thoughtful, Open-Ended Questions

When in the discussion period of a negotiation, a big-time measure of success obviously lies in the dialogue that both parties are having. When you approach all of your questioning with some intention, you’re much more likely to get the answers you’re looking for. Stay away from “yes” or “no” questions, and instead stick to questioning that requires the other party to thoughtfully answer you. It keeps communication more open, and is also a much better way to have a constructive dialogue.

To keep it easy to remember, take it back to 8th grade English class when you learned about the 5 W’s: who, what, when, where, and why. Tailor your questioning with phrases that invite in more conversation, and you’re much more likely to reach a better outcome for the both of you. 

04. Be Prepared To Walk Away

While all of the negotiation tips I’ve shared so far are vital to negotiating effectively, they’re nothing without your willingness to walk away from the deal—or at least your ability to *act* like you’re willing to. If the other party can tell that you’re incredibly invested in the success of the deal, you’re already in the weeds. If the other party knows that you’ll be fine without the deal? They’re much more likely to work to make it the right one for you.

However, there’s a fine line between threatening to walk away—stay away from that as much as you can, since it can tend to come off petty and argumentative. Instead, make it clear that—while you would like the deal to work—you are willing to find another option. The other party’s opinions obviously matter as much as yours, but do not hand over the power by making it clear that you’re relying on this deal and its success.

(this is how I won the keychain battle by the way)

I highly recommend that you read “Never Split The Difference” by Chris Voss, which completely transformed my own mindset around effective negotiation tactics. As a former hostage negotiator for the FBI, he’s dealt with some true life-or-death situations and is great at putting things in perspective.

Negotiating can be an intimidating part of being in business, but it doesn’t have to be. Really, it’s all about discovering how you can make your negotiation skills work for you in a way that takes away your anxiety and gives you the power.




I started my own entrepreneurial career in 2012 scaling up from $0 a year to over $100,000 each and every year. I firmly and wholeheartedly believe there are ways for all of us self-employed entrepreneurs to reach six-figures and beyond and I'm unapologetically here to show you how I do it so you can make your next best move. Let's go.

foUNDER of gigging for gold
i like my coffee black

Obsessed With Increasing Your Odds of success