"The most dangerous negotiation is the one you don't know you're in" - Christoper Voss
Some negotiations are more obvious than others: You have a product to sell, you are trying to convince someone to buy, at a price you want, that they are willing to pay. Some negotiations are so subtle you don't even notice them: routinely letting your vendors pay you 20 days late; not complaining when your partner leaves an hour earlier than you on Fridays; not wanting to confront your partners over a sticky issue. Those are all negotiations, you just chose to give-up before they began.
So, everything we do in life is a constant negotiation. And it's important to have the right advocate and negotiator working for you. What makes a good negotiator? Well, everyone has their own way: some are sweet, some are sour, some never give an inch, some talk circles around you. The way I approach most negotiations is:
(1) know my client, their fears, their desires, their bottom line, what keeps them up at night
(2) know the issue inside and out: do my homework, both factually and legally
(3) know the other side; ask my clients what they know about the priorities and hangups of the people we will be dealing with
(4) if I can, make it a deal that not only serves my client the best I can, but also make the other side at least reasonably happy.
You may ask why #4? Why care about our opponents? So, they keep the deal, and you keep the peace. Win-Win. Sometimes, that's not possible, but to me, that's always the best victory.
Once, I'm ready to talk to the other side, I start friendly, and use a "no BS" approach. Since I did my homework, know my client, and hopefully something about the other side, I dispense with a lot of the bluster of even the most hostile opponents, especially if our position is factually or legally strong. Even the worst bullies respect strength, and that power is usually reflected by superior command of the high ground of the situation and legal knowledge.
No matter how empathetic, intuitive or patient you are, it's often difficult to perform your own negotiations, as you are too closely involved. Perhaps it's time to get a second opinion or a helping hand to assist you?