Want to get great at negotiation? Get a coach.

By | 7 October 2018

This time, I am going to be a bit lazy and just cite out of Atul Gawande’s TED talk. But how could I say it in a better way? His speech is about coaching in general and not specifically about negotiation. But still entirely relevant to see how coaching can be useful for your negotiation skills. I made very few adaptations to the context of negotiation coaching which you can see in between square brackets [ ] in my summary below.

How to learn and improve?

“How do professionals get better at what they do? How do they get great? There are two views about this.”

“One is the traditional pedagogical view. That is that you go to school, you study, you practice, you learn, you graduate, and then you go out into the world and you make your way on your own. A professional is someone who is capable of managing their own improvement. That is the approach that virtually all professionals have learned by. That’s how doctors learn, that’s how lawyers do, scientists … musicians. And the thing is, it works.”

“Now, the contrasting view comes out of sports. And they say “You are never done, everybody needs a coach.” Everyone. The greatest in the world needs a coach.”

Why should you get negotiation coaching?

“So I tried to think about this as a [contract negotiator]. Pay someone to come into [the negotiation] room, observe me and critique me. That seems absurd. Expertise means not needing to be coached.”

“Turns out there are numerous problems in making it on your own. You don’t recognize the issues that are standing in your way or, if you do, you don’t necessarily know how to fix them. And the result is that somewhere along the way, you stop improving. “

How does negotiation coaching work?

“[A coaching session] was a whole other level of awareness. And I had to think, you know, there was something fundamentally profound about this. He was describing what great coaches do, and what they do is they are your external eyes and ears, providing a more accurate picture of your reality. They’re recognizing the fundamentals. They’re breaking your actions down and then helping you build them back up again. After two months of coaching, I felt myself getting better again.”

“And we knew that just handing out a checklist wasn’t going to change very much, and even just teaching it in the classroom wasn’t necessarily going to be enough to get people to make the changes that you needed to bring it alive. And I thought on my experience and said, “What if we tried coaching?””

“What she worked on most, she said, was inculcating in them habits of thinking and of learning so that they could make their way in the world without her when they were done.”


  • Negotiation Coaching is for everyone: starters to experts.
  • It provides external eyes and ears, a more accurate picture of your reality to help you continue improving.
  • Providing habits of thinking and of learning that remain after the coaching.

Click here for other publications on Negotiation Coaching on this website. 

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