Avoiding Misunderstanding in Negotiation

Misunderstanding is a common cause of negotiations breaking down.  Such breakdowns may occur due to differences of viewpoint, background or cultures as well as many other factors. In negotiation especially it is possible not to ‘hear’ what others intend to say due to lack of assertiveness on the part of the other person or ineffective listening.

This lesson will cover some ways that misunderstandings in negotiation can be reduced helping to pave the way for a successful negotiation.


Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.

John F. Kennedy. Inaugural Address - 20 January 1961


Because misunderstandings in negotiation can easily occur, it is important to:

  • Clarify individual goals.
  • State the issues clearly.
  • Consider all viewpoints.
  • Clarifying meaning.
Clarify the Goals

It is essential to have a clear understanding of what the other side is seeking to achieve.  This is not always what they initially state as their aims.  Looking at interests often allows for an understanding of the real goals.  Similarly, it is worthwhile clearly stating what your own goals are so that both parties can work together to seek mutual benefit.

State the Issues Clearly

It is important to identify the real issues involved and discard those that are not relevant.  This enables the focus of the negotiation to remain firmly fixed on the interests and differences of the individuals involved, without argument spreading to other areas of work.

Consider all Viewpoints

During negotiation, a great deal of time can be spent in establishing the facts.  However, it should be realized that ‘facts’ tend to provide another area over which to disagree.  Another person’s worries, even if totally unfounded, are still real worries and need to be taken into consideration.


Conflicts often arise because of differences in personal viewpoints.  Remember that to accept and understand someone else’s viewpoint does not imply agreement with that point of view.  Rather, it shows respect for the person and the wish to work together to find a mutually satisfactory solution.

Similarly, it is helpful to encourage the other person to understand your viewpoint.  An open, honest and accepting discussion of the differences in perspective will often help to clarify the issues and provide the way forward to a resolution.

Clarify Meaning

Good communication skills are essential for negotiation.  Xcite™ has lots of lessons that can help you improve and develop your communication skills, which in turn will minimize the problems associated with misunderstandings in negotiation.

Such skills include:

  • Active Listening
  • Questioning
  • Reflecting and Clarification
  • Verbal Communication and Non-Verbal Communication


By developing a good understanding of communication you increase the possibility of successful negotiation and, most importantly, maintain the relationship for the future.  Spending time to clarify and agree what all individuals have said (rather than assuming what they intended to say) will ensure that misunderstanding of meaning is kept to a minimum.

Good negotiation also involves offering your viewpoint in an assertive manner, rather than taking an aggressive stance, or passively listening to different views.  By being assertive you will help to ensure that the needs of all concerned are met.


Negotiation is a process by which people resolve disagreements.  Structured negotiation follows a number of stages from preparation through to implementation.  If possible, a WIN-WIN approach is more desirable than a bargaining (WIN-LOSE) approach.  This involves seeking resolutions that allow both sides to gain, while at the same time maintaining good working relationships with the other parties involved.


Now that you have completed this lesson, you can proceed to the next lesson which will discuss problem solving.