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Time is a crucial element in any negotiation. Don’t lose control over time. Plan your negotiations, including how much time you want to spend on any given topic. A lead negotiator is the time keeper – until the very last second of the negotiation.


Your preparation should follow a strict schedule, the so-called "Rhythm of Negotiation" (RON). It determines what should happen when and where. You should take advantage of the rhythm in a negotiation, because it requires a planned sequence of accents to provide the framework for your tactic. Therefore, you should never allow your negotiating partner to dictate timing; it should be you who leads the negotiation and it is up to you to decide the timing.

Time limits during a negotiation

Pace is also a crucial element in a negotiation. A professional negotiator will try to get you into their own time frame, indicating it by means of an agenda and thereby taking the lead. You should therefore create your own agenda in advance of the negotiation and never accept that of the other side.

Determine how long to negotiate a topic

A negotiation is like dancing tango. The leader leads the follower and thereby determines the tempo and the figures, i.e. the content. You should take on the role of the leader in the negotiation and make your negotiating partner feel that you have all events under control.

This does not mean that you have to keep leading your negotiating partner closely all the time. You should give them space to develop. When tangoing, followers get given space to display their abilities. So the followers do their figures and show the leads and the audience how well they dance. If the follower moves too freely and jeopardizes the dynamics and harmony of the dance, the lead brings them close again until they have the follower back under control.

Something similar happens in a negotiation: you lead your negotiating partner through the process. During the analysis phase you give them space to speak and answer your questions. If they wander too far off, you bring them back by asking targeted questions. As time passes, you lead them more and more tightly, decide on breaks, limit time and postpone the negotiation. If you do not take the lead, they will take it.

You decide how time is allocated in your favor

It does not matter how much time is actually available. You can use the time limit for the negotiation to your benefit. A popular tactic is the artificial limitation of time. For example: your negotiating partner has prepared intensively for a negotiation that is scheduled for two hours. Due to “unfortunate circumstances” you arrive an hour late and also have to leave earlier because of an urgent appointment. Your negotiating partner is thus forced to reach an agreement in less than an hour.

You decide when a postponement makes sense

This tactic is very effective if you think that you will have a better hand at a later date. But you should have a justification for the postponement ready for your negotiating partner. Maybe a new report has been received, the press has disclosed important information or you need a work group. Your imagination knows no bounds for this. But please keep in mind that you cannot use this tactic too often because you will risk being seen as untrustworthy.