How to Use Humor in Your Next Negotiation

Negotiation is often thought of as a very serious discussion and is probably the last place you would expect to find laughter. However, humor can be an excellent negotiating tool because it helps to establish and strengthen relationships between partners. When tensions are high and negotiations become deadlocked, a simple joke can ease tensions and create a bond among all parties involved, eventually leading to a deal. Whether you are negotiating a pay raise, a million dollar deal, or simply where to go for dinner, humor can play a significant role in your success. 


According to recent studies, humor has numerous benefits in the negotiation process. It can put the involved parties at ease; it can introduce a difficult issue; it can foster teamwork and bonding; it can even help people cooperate amidst disagreements. If you can inject humor into your negotiations, you are more likely to set the tone for a smoother conversation. For example, imagine you have proposed a deal and the tension began rising as the other party asked, “What is this going to cost me?” You pause and respond, “Are you sitting down?” The other person might laugh and the tension is reduced right away. This tactic can be extremely effective for closing deals. 


When you are negotiating, look for opportunities to weave in a little humor- perhaps a funny story or anecdote or even a funny gesture. Negotiations are often serious and intense so humor can be a great way to lighten the mood. When we relax the atmosphere with a few innocent jokes, you are able to put people at ease. In turn, they can think more objectively and make better decisions. Be cautious, however, and choose your words carefully. You want to be sure your humor is always used professionally, so avoid sharp jabs or inappropriate jokes. When used appropriately, humor can not only relax the atmosphere, but it can help you break a deadlock. Self-deprecating humor can be especially effective for this. An occasional joke about yourself can create an environment of collaboration and helps to increase your likability. So, the next time you find yourself in the midst of tense negotiations, consider lightening the mood a little with humor.