Like Financial Management says, “Negotiation is a science and an art,” a delicate dance from initial offer to dried ink just as much as it is an exercise in understanding the forces of pressure and vulnerability.
That’s why, when it comes to sharpening those crucial negotiation strategies, negotiation skill sets, and negotiation techniques, it’s helpful to have proven resources at your disposal. Here, we’ve compiled a list of the best books on negotiation — written by veteran dealmakers — that are of full of actionable advice to help you secure deals of all shapes and sizes and manage difficult conversations.
1. “Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In” by Roger Fisher and William Ury
Who Should Read It – M&A pros feeling rusty or in need of inspiration should read this negotiation book, who might benefit from the sort of shot in the arm that only a good collab can provide.
Why Read It – Everyone needs a reminder that teamwork makes the dream work. Getting to Yes doesn’t just pack effective strategies for deals and business negotiation that make all involved parties happy, it underscores the essential human element of M&A with an all-important emphasis on relationship building.
Key Takeaways – Fisher and Ury help us understand the importance of separating people from the problem, which ultimately frees us to focus on dynamic interests rather than staid positions. As Newsweek puts it, Getting to Yes “may help convert the Age of Me to the Era of We.”
2. “Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It” by Chris Voss
Who Should Read It – Anyone feeling stressed by the anxiety-inducing prospect of negotiating high-stakes scenarios. Sharpening your business negotiation tactics under the guidance of Voss, former FBI lead international kidnapping negotiator, is sure to make you feel like you’re in good hands.
Why Read It – With a foundation in field-tested FBI techniques, Never Split the Difference is a negotiation book that approaches negotiation from a deeply psychological perspective that often radically diverges from the negotiation skill sets and strategies you’ve read in those other books on negotiation.
Key Takeaways – It’s all about leveraging emotional intelligence and empathy to effectively navigate interpersonal dynamics, handle difficult conversations, and create win-win outcomes. As the publishers at The Black Swan Group put it, “We spend most of our days at work negotiating for something. Knowing the most successful, crisis-tested approaches to the process will ensure the conversation more frequently goes your way.”
3. “Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High” by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler
Who Should Read It – This one’s essential for M&A practitioners facing down particularly sensitive or delicate discussions during sticky negotiations, especially those that hinge on person-to-person conversations (and many do).
Why Read It – To learn practical, repeatable strategies for navigating difficult or tense convos. This classic 2011 manual — now in an updated and improved second edition — helps you foster open dialogues by creating safe conversational spaces for everyone in the room.
Key Takeaways – Crucial Conversations teaches us how to navigate tricky disagreements all while building trust and achieving emotional and practical alignment, no matter how high the stakes or how tense the vibe. Like the text itself says, “Be persuasive, not abrasive.”
4. “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” by Robert Cialdini
Who Should Read It – Just about any M&A professional who seeks to understand the basic, time-tested principles of persuasion. A key part of the negotiator’s canon, Influence lays a rock-solid and timeless psychological foundation.
Why Read It – First published in 1984, Influence has earned its iconic reputation as one of the best books on negotiation. Nearly four decades on, its exploration of the complex psychology behind the forces of influence still resonates.
Key Takeaways – Cialdini both identifies common psychological triggers and teaches you how to leverage them to increase the effectiveness of your negotiation, but he doesn’t sacrifice ethics in the name of persuasion. Rather, he stresses that “we should try to repay, in kind, what another person has provided us.”
5. “Negotiation Genius: How to Overcome Obstacles and Achieve Brilliant Results at the Bargaining Table and Beyond” by Deepak Malhotra and Max H. Bazerman
Who Should Read It – IB and M&A professionals who prefer detailed guidelines laid out in a straightforward, methodical fashion, or those seeking a level-headed, direct rulebook for complex negotiation challenges.
Why Read It – Malhotra and Bazerman draw from years of rigorous behavioral research and the experiences of thousands of real-life business clients to offer a clear, instructional book on negotiation. Stephen R. Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, calls it “an absolutely brilliant negotiation framework and toolkit of negotiation strategies.”
Key Takeaways – Negotiation Genius aims to help you hone and perfect the skills to analyze diverse situations, create value, and negotiate successfully, even in difficult situations where others see no room for discussion or when you’re negotiating from a position of weakness.
6. “Getting More: How to Negotiate to Achieve Your Goals in the Real World” by Stuart Diamond
Who Should Read It – Getting More works for M&A professionals who want practical negotiation techniques that don’t just apply to the financial world, but can be deployed in a whole spectrum of situations, from negotiating with your kids to your romantic partners and way beyond.
Why Read It – To build a truly comprehensive approach to negotiation that deftly (and sensitively) encompasses all sorts of interpersonal relationships, emotional hues, and cultural considerations, as taught by a business professor who has instructed more than 5,000 Special Ops soldiers in the art of negotiating.
Key Takeaways – Diamond’s guide — named number one among the best books to read for your career by The Wall Street Journal — helps readers maximize outcomes, expand potential values, and build long-term partnerships through the lens of emotional intelligence by “rejecting outdated tactics like power, logic, and leverage.”
7. “Bargaining for Advantage: Negotiation Strategies for Reasonable People” by G. Richard Shell
Who Should Read It – Bargaining for Advantage is one of the best books on negotiation for M&A practitioners aiming to develop a negotiation style that’s just as principled as it is smartly strategic.
Why Read It – Shell, director of the Wharton Executive Negotiation Workshop, helps you understand the importance of preparation, leveraging power, and making intelligent concessions via a systematic, step-by-step approach.
Key Takeaways – Sure, Bargaining teaches us to negotiate effectively while maintaining a moral backbone of fairness and strong relationships, but the latest edition also includes a really neat Negotiation I.Q. Test that sheds light on your unique strengths as a negotiator, emphasizing that negotiation strategies are a personal, bespoke experience for each individual.
8. “The Art of Negotiation: How to Improvise Agreement in a Chaotic World” by Michael Wheeler
Who Should Read It – M&A negotiation artists looking for innovative approaches in dynamic environments. Ready to embrace outside-of-the-box deal structures? This might be one the best books on negotiation for you.
Why Read It – Because if you’re alive in the year 2023, you know that the phrase “chaotic world” is an understatement. Centered around negotiation as improvisation among unpredictable circumstances, Wheeler “takes the study of negotiation to a level that had not previously been reached,” according to the Naval War College Review.
Key Takeaways – Straight from the pages, “Saying that negotiators [are] agile improvisers doesn’t mean that they make everything up as they go along. Far from it. They’re well prepared, but they don’t hobble themselves with rigid plans. They understand that effective negotiation demands rapid cycles of learning, adapting, and influencing.”
9. “Getting Past No: Negotiating in Difficult Situations” by William Ury
Who Should Read It – Graduates of the Getting to Yes school who find themselves butting up against the frictions of new and more challenging negotiation scenarios. This is the 102 to Ury’s previous 101 course.
Why Read It – Most books on negotiation are about, well, Getting to Yes. This time, Ury shifts focus from the ascent to “yes” to hitting all the walls that say “no” along the way, offering actionable techniques to overcome recurring obstacles, navigate difficult counterparts, and turn those dead ends into positive outcomes.
Key Takeaways – Take it from Ury: “The first thing you need to do in a negotiation is not to control the other person’s behavior, but to control your own.” Instead, you’ll focus on defusing tension, building rapport, and finding common ground during even the most rough-and-tumble negotiation sesh.
10. “Start with No: The Negotiating Tools That the Pros Don’t Want You to Know” by Jim Camp
Who Should Read It – We recommend this one for M&A pros who are open-minded enough to embrace a seemingly counterintuitive approach to negotiation. Feel like you’ve already seen it all? Try cracking Start with No open.
Why Read It – If common deal killers are vampires, Start With No is a wooden stake with a fine point. Camp’s nonlinear approach challenges traditional negotiation tactics with an inventive – but still systematic – process that might just help you achieve breakthrough results.
Key Takeaways – Camp’s ingenious and uncompromising bible totally deconstructs the cliched concept of the “win-win” negotiation with effective and often collaborative listening and questioning techniques. As he puts it, “Win-win is often win-lose because it invites unnecessary compromise, because it is emotion-based, not decision-based, and because it plays to the heart, not to the head.” This one’ll play to the head and blow your mind, too.
Dan is a freelance writer with over a decade of experience, currently residing in Dallas, TX. Along the way, he’s been lucky enough to collaborate with brands including Fortune, The Motley Fool, Office Depot, MSN Money and many more.
Financial Management – Negotiation Skills: A Key Tool for Finance Leaders
Harvard Law School Program on Negotiation – Getting to YES: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In
The Black Swan Group – Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It
Harvard Law School Program on Negotiation – Negotiation Genius: How to Overcome Obstacles and Achieve Brilliant Results at the Bargaining Table and Beyond
Getting More – The Book
Getting More – Stuart Diamond, Founder, Author
Naval War College Review – The Art of Negotiation: How to Improvise Agreement in a Chaotic World
Simon & Schuster – The Art of Negotiation: How to Improvise Agreement in a Chaotic World
William Ury – Sample Chapter: Getting Past No