Aikido Negotiation Tactics

Striking Point

Good negotiation skill in business is critical to success. You’re buying, you’re selling, and you need to get the best deals possible or the numbers won’t add up.

In The Art of Negotiation I layed out the basics of preparing to negotiate. I also stressed the importance of a win-win situation. The object of a negotiation is to create something new. Something ideal. And something bigger than either party could ever do or be alone.

To do that, you both have to defend your interests. You both have to make it out alive. And you both have to help each other do that.

Aikido and Negotiation

Aikido is an amazing martial art created by Sensei Morihei Ueshiba. It’s based on principles of the highest integrity. In Aikido, you have the right to defend yourself against attack, and yet, neither you nor your opponent should be critically harmed during the conflict. Aikido achieves this using two basic elements:

  1. It’s designed to use your opponents force against them. To redirect it, guide it, and diffuse it.
  2. Every type of assault has a striking distance. A point of impact where maximum damage occurs. Moving inside or outside of the striking distance diminishes the impact of the strike. This is what allows you to evade and redirect the attack.

The result is an effective defense, and an offense that is in control of the situation, that directs the outcome without damaging your opponent severely. This is what makes Aikido a perfect framework for creating a win-win outcome out of a potentially harmful engagement.

The Negotiation Tactics

The table illustrates the tactics. The striking distance is a list of common negotiating tactics. They’re crude street-fighting tactics used in business and if you’re not prepared, they can be very effective.

The Aikido negotiation tactics give you two options against each type of strike. You can move inside the point of impact or outside it. Which you choose depends on the situation, but most people tend to move outside because it’s easier. Moving inside can sometimes be much more effective. You have to be able to do both.

Move Inside Striking Distance Move Outside
  (Common negotiating tactics)  
Brainstorm solutions Circumstance, theory or fact Detail the facts
Explore other options with them Go with the competition Explore your options
Separate the options Looking for small concessions Note the extras included
Note the extras included Package deal required Separate the options
Stress thoroughness Delaying Set deadlines
Set deadlines Urgency Stress thoroughness
Ask for confirmation Bluffing Track down confirmation
Tip balance in their favor Standoff or impasse Tip balance in your favor
Agree on difficulties Walking out Disagree on difficulties
High regard for their authority Limited Authority Get authorizations
Have compassion Emotional plea Remain professional

The Aikido Negotiation tactics can be used offensively as well as defensively. In both cases, you’re taking control of the situation and directing it. To be a true master of negotiation, you have to practice these techniques until they become instinct, just as you would any martial art.

Use the table. Train. Stage mock negotiation sessions and practice the techniques. Once they become automatic, you’ll not just be a formidable negotiator, but one capable of creating the kinds of amazing deals that everyone talks about.

OSensei Ueshiba is also the author of The Art of Peace. The illustration is from the book Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere which is easily the best book on Aikido ever written.

13 thoughts on “Aikido Negotiation Tactics”

  1. Great article, Shane. Your blog, overall, is one of the more enjoyable and highly-readable blogs I have been following lately. I like how you drew the parallel between Aikido and effective negotiation.

  2. This blog has proven to be a great find for me. Thank you for this the easy reading and even though I don’t follow RSS, I have you bookmarked.

    This is a great post. Good correlation!

    — Scot

  3. Thanks Scot. I have a number of blogs bookmarked myself. All the commenters that drop by here, including your site.

    I just set up Google Reader, so I can start subscribing to everybody’s sites.

  4. Shane, this post is another reason why I read your blog everyday. I think I read that post 4 or 5 times!

    “you have to practice these techniques until they become instinct” that can be applied to so many things in life and in business, you have to develop those skill till it’s simply the natural way.

    Great post!

  5. Jon, thanks! You read it 4 or 5 times?!

    Why do I get the feeling that I don’t want to be negotiating against you in the future? haha

  6. haha, yeah i read it many times, first for the content because it’s really useful infos, then again because of your writing style, then to analyze the structure of your post (like in “learning from others”) and then a couple times more, you know like when you finish reading a book and you go “ok, that was an awesome book, i’ll read it again soon” felt just like that. Have i told you i really really like your blog?

    hehe, why wouldn’t you want to negotiate against me? 🙂

  7. Hey,

    Nice post. Negotiation is an art, and not an easy at that.

    One thing I learnt is that, never ever negotiate in a language you are not strong with. Get them to talk terms in your most proficient language and the edge will be with you.


  8. Jag,

    It always helps to speak the language. I’ve had a few discussions with Japanese companies. They always make sure someone on the team is very proficient in English and usually the rest of the team has a good working knowledge of it.


    I’ll tell you, writing this post was really easy. It’s actually one of the easiest posts I’ve written. The table of techniques was something I put together some time ago (along with the basic concept). The rest just flowed.

    I always find that my best posts (and most popular) are the easiest to write. All the elements just come together … instinctively

  9. Hi Shane,

    Like Jon I read this post a few times too, great post and I particularly liked your writing style. “It’s designed to use your opponents force against them” this line is interesting and useful. Whats scary about negotiating is that it sometimes leads to arguments. Negotiationis an art.

    Cheers mate and take care. Will be back for sure.

  10. Robin,

    Thanks. Yeah, negotiation can be very tricky! That’s what makes it so challenging. And it’s the challenge that makes it fun.

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