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Negotiating the Sweet Spot

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Negotiating the Sweet Spot

The Art of Leaving Nothing on the Table

HarperCollins Leadership,

15 min read
7 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

If negotiation is an art form, here are the materials you need to create a masterpiece, time and time again.

Editorial Rating



  • Applicable
  • Well Structured
  • Engaging


“Win-win” is the buzzword for successful negotiations, but most fall short of the mark. Seasoned negotiators learn that getting to win-win requires outsmarting, outshouting or outmaneuvering your counterpart. Alas, these strategies are ineffective. Yet it is possible to “maximize the value” for all parties, a process negotiation expert Leigh Thompson calls “finding the sweet spot.” Thompson shares several hacks to help you find the sweet spot as you navigate negotiations. Once you do so, you’ll arrive at better solutions, whether you’re negotiating a work contract or control of the TV remote.


Sweet spot negotiations maximize value by leveraging the wants, needs and interests of all participants.

When Professor Leigh Thompson attended a faculty planning meeting to discuss creating a multi-course online program, she hoped to negotiate a commitment that could work around her existing obligations. Alas, the project director presented the schedule and assignments as a fait accompli, and no one objected. As they chatted after the meeting, however, the committee members discovered that their priorities, while different from the presented schedule, aligned. They reworked the proposal to meet everyone’s needs.

Thompson and her colleagues failed to speak up during the meeting because they didn’t want to appear uncooperative, and they mistakenly believed the committee members would disagree with their proposed revisions. The term for this behavior, coined by Nobel laureate Herb Simon, is “satisficing” – that is, settling for less to avoid conflict. In contrast, “optimizing” is the process of “leveraging all the potential” to arrive at a mutually satisfactory resolution: the sweet spot.

People discover the negotiation sweet spot ...

About the Author

Leigh Thompson is a business management professor at the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University. Her previous books include Creative Conspiracy and Making the Team.

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