Good Developers Need Good Negotiation Skills — Here Are Some Tips

this paper Originally published in .cult Karen McLevy. .cult A community platform for developers based in Berlin. We write about all things career-related, create original documentaries, and share a wealth of developer untold stories from around the world.

When we think of negotiations, we think of a heated argument going back and forth between two parties negotiating a deal involving a large sum of money. One is unwavering with price in mind and the other with budget in mind. Either one adapts or both walk away. Add in the power struggle of appearing as the “toughest person” and you’re going to have a hard time closing the deal.

These negotiations do occur, but they are not something most of us experience in our daily lives. Don’t get me wrong. Negotiations take place daily. All I’m saying is that it’s not a hard fight. They don’t need a huge power struggle either.

For example, have you ever had to convince an airline customer service representative to let your child go to bed on time, or to book another flight after a delay?

We were negotiating!

Going further, believe it or not, negotiating is also an important part of being a software engineer.

Negotiation skills come into play when:

  • Convince others of the best technical solution or architecture for new features
  • convince colleagues about a better approach code review
  • Determine team standards for team maintainable code
  • Process cross-functional partners and scope of projects by specific deadlines
  • talk about you new total reward When you change company or position, or when you get promoted

Through these scenarios Developer Almost every day, we negotiate in one way or another. But what’s interesting is that most of us have never really learned the proper techniques or the best ways to collaborate when negotiating for better results.

Realizing the importance of this skill, I decided that I should learn it. So I searched for the best books on the subject and settled on two of his, summarized below.

The summaries highlight some of the main ideas from each book, but I encourage you to check them out for more details!

Book 1: reach yes: Negotiation agreement without concessions

This classic handbook on negotiation remains the primary educational guide for negotiators around the world.

We focus on achieving win-win solutions.

One of the main ideas is to find a win-win solution and both sides walk away happy with the final deal.

Often, during negotiations, all parties have specific interests that are of primary interest. Discovering them is important. Knowing the interests allows each party to compromise in the areas of least interest and win in the areas of greatest interest to both parties.

Four principles of negotiation:

1. Separate people from the problem

It’s the “us versus the problem” mindset that helps solidify deals without attacking individuals, hurting relationships, or blaming others. By shifting your focus from winning over your opponent to winning over the problem itself, you can frame your arguments in the right way.

This framework makes it easier for both sides to listen and understand each other, allowing for better communication and trading.

2. Focus on interests rather than status

When each party negotiates from their standpoint, neither can be easily shaken. I don’t want to concede or make “mistakes”. Instead of discussing it that way, determine each party’s interests and what they are willing to let go of.

That way, you can find ways to address each party’s interests without losing your “foundation.”

3. Generate different options before reaching agreement

Brainstorm ideas separately from negotiating final decisions. Exploring ideas in a safe space allows creativity to flow freely. It also gives people the chance to come up with partial solution ideas that can later be combined when finalizing negotiations.

Once the ideas are born, evaluate them together (and vice versa), focusing on those that are low cost to you to complete but high value to other parties.

4 – Insist that arguments are based on objective criteria

By creating an objective list of criteria, you can base ideas and consensus on data rather than opinions, feelings, and positions.

When crafting win-win solutions, objectivity helps determine how to find options for easy wins!

Best Alternatives to Negotiated Agreements (BATNA)

Batna An unfavorable outcome to accept during negotiations.

This key idea makes it easier to stay away from negotiations that negatively affect your interests.

Overall “Getting to Yes” shows that finding alternative solutions that both sides win makes negotiations easier.

Chris Voss believes that negotiation is the process of trying to convince others of your approach to a topic. It is a type of communication that requires a specific outcome and is built on the premise that humans want to be accepted and understood.

He doesn’t believe that finding alternatives is always the best bargaining outcome. Furthermore, he believes that negotiations should not be conducted using reason and logic, as humans are not rational beings.

Let’s dig into some of the main points of the book.

tactical empathy

By understanding the other person’s feelings and ways of thinking during negotiations, and by actively listening to what is behind the other person’s feelings, you can have a great impact on the conversation.

By keeping others in a positive mindset and a safe space, you can find ideas and ways that lead you to the ideas you want.Chris Voss emphasizes using a calm, positive and casual tone . Even in tense discussions, this tone helps reinforce and maintain a safe environment for negotiations.


Repeating what the other person is saying in a curious tone is a way to show that you are actively listening and to keep the other person talking.

He recommends repeating the last three words, or the last significant word of what someone said. This helps build trust by appearing like-minded in conversation. How does this build relationships? When you imitate someone, they are more likely to keep talking, and being an active listener helps build trust.


Use tactical empathy, mirroring, and active listening to label how others are feeling. You can use statements like “it seems like” or “sounds like” to check your understanding and how they feel. This requires paying attention to facial expressions and tone to read the other person’s true feelings.

Labeling shows understanding and reinforces the emotions expressed in the conversation.

If they say yes, it means you are listening to them.

Tailored question

Use questions as a way to give the other person “control”. By asking them tailored questions, you can get their help in solving problems together.

Questions like the following can help you get an idea.

  • is this important to you?
  • How can I improve this?
  • What should I do?
  • What has put us in this situation?
  • How can I resolve this issue?
  • what are you trying to achieve here?
  • What should I do?

Chris Voss’ idea of ​​negotiating is to use your findings by listening and building rapport, validating your concerns, and creating a safety net for the conversation to thrive.

These conversations help you understand and validate the other person’s concerns while building your own results case. Once the other side feels validated and understood, you can guide them towards why your solution yields the best results.

Of course, what you learn can change the outcome of a negotiation, but it’s important to understand the other person’s situation and interests.

These two books have been very helpful to me. careerI hope that learning some of the key ideas has piqued your interest in learning more!

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