Ruby’s 10 Immutable Laws of Negotiation

by Nov 9, 2018


Throughout history, skilled negotiators have helped topple dictators, avert war and grow large companies.

Whether on the battlefield or in the conference room, negotiation skills are critical to help you realize what you are willing to settle for in the  moment to gain what you want in the future.

Insight about Negotiation from the U.S. Military

For six years, researchers at Harvard University studied how U.S. military officers serving in Afghanistan. They wanted to find out how these officers resolved conflict and influenced others in situations involving exceptional risk and uncertainty. They find that the most skilled among the officers relied on these five points:

  1. Understand the big picture.
  2. Uncover hidden agendas, and collaborate with the other side.
  3. Get genuine buy-in.
  4. Build relationships that are based on trust rather than fear.
  5. Pay attention to process as well as desired outcomes.

Insight about Negotiation from the Conference Room

Here is an example of masterful negotiation from the conference room. In the early 1970s, George Lucas was an unknown director coming off a largely forgotten Hollywood debut film. But then he went on to write, direct and produce the huge hit American Graffiti. It pulled in more than $200 million at the box office.

What Lucas wanted was to produce a high-concept “space Western” called Star Wars as a serialized movie. A multiple-picture deal would be a difficult sale to negotiate, but now he had a huge hit under his belt. In 1973‑74, Lucas and his lawyer met with Fox. The studio executives didn’t really want a “quirky little space movie with swords made of light, walking dog-things and strange robots running around a desert planet.” They wanted the next American Graffiti.

So here’s what Lucas did next. Instead of negotiating a huge pay raise for his next film, he asked Fox for two things that were not negotiable — he wanted to oversee the sequels for the Star Wars films, and he wanted to control all merchandising. Lucas could lead a masterful negotiation because he knew what he was willing to settle for in the moment to get what he wanted in the future.

So how did he pull off this high-dollar negotiation? He believed in his abilities, and he looked beyond where he was in the moment and focused on the long-term.

Ruby’s 10 Irrefutable Negotiation Laws

My negotiation experience hasn’t been in the military nor a Hollywood conference room. It’s be with assisting emerging growth companies. These are $5 to $50 million companies growing by 15% or more annually. Over the years I’ve compiled a list of essentials for succeeding in business negotiations.

Here are my 10 immutable laws for negation success:

  1. Be present-tense while focusing on the future. Leverage the other party’s short term needs against your long-term goal.
  2. Be creative. Think bigger and you’ll get more.
  3. Be approachable. Tough negotiators get what they want by being approachable, flexible and willing to discuss various scenarios.
  4. Have a plan. Have a written plan and follow it like a script. If you wing it, you’ll leave the door open so others can take advantage of you.
  5. Know your goals. Know your ideal, realistic and acceptable outcomes, and don’t be afraid to walk away if they aren’t going to be met.
  6. Track your goals. Consistently inspect what you expect to track your progress, and keep moving forward.
  7. Be assertive, not aggressive. State your case, be straightforward and confident, not proud and arrogant.
  8. Don’t quit. Regardless of the obstacles you encounter, don’t give up. Even when you decide to walk away, remember it’s never over.
  9. Guard against negativity. Be a forward thinker, trust your process and persevere.
  10. Ask for help. Ask your negotiating opponent to help you. People are always willing to help if they feel like there is something it it for them.


Jeff Ruby

Jeff Ruby

Founder & CEO of RedRock Leadership

During the course of his professional career, he has worked in organizations ranging in size from a sole practitioner to Fortune 500. Included in his experience are roles in starting and selling companies, sales and sales management, training and development and executive coaching.

RedRock Leadership is a sales training and leadership development company committed to growing companies by growing individuals through on-going training infused with the competencies of emotional intelligence.