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Business Communication 101: Why intent is the foundation of all negotiation

Were you trained to keep your true intent hidden when you sat down at the negotiating table? If you do that, it will be confusing to others and ultimately, you are less likely to walk away with what you really want.

The most effective lever to raise the level of negotiations from stalled to progressive is the power of intent.

Your intent in any discussion is your goal, strictly speaking, but it is more than that. Your goal is what you want; your intent is what you want plus the reason you want it. It is the purpose for all that you do.

Intent springs up from deep inside of you, like some mysterious volcanic eruption, a climax of learning, need, and ancestral yearning.

Many business books in the past have warned participants in negotiations to keep their intent hidden until well into the negotiations as a means of protection.

Through the intercultural communication program The Bridging Principles, we know now that hiding our intent is a kind of dishonesty that will not serve us or our negotiation process well in the long term. People can sense when you have a hidden agenda, and this can lead to distrust in negotiations.

We must know our intent and be willing to share it from the outset as a way of making our private reasoning public. This doesn’t mean you need to share every little detail about your business goals and how much money you want to make from a deal.

Instead, consider the deepest level “why” for what brings you to this negotiation. Share that deeper level “why” and you will see how much more quickly trust can be developed with the business on the other side of the table. 

Like all management skills and negotiations training, learning how to use the power of intent takes practice particularly in a work world full of cultural diversity.

One exercise to consciously consider your intent and practice sharing it with others is to survey what you have planned in your agenda over the next couple of weeks. Select three meetings you are attending and spend some time considering exactly what your personal intent is for these gatherings. What is the deep outcome you want to achieve with your presence at these meetings?

Once you know what your intent is, think about the importance of communication in the negotiation process. You have to share your intent. How will you do that?

When the meeting concludes, revisit your intent. Has it changed? Has it emerged untouched? Did you accomplish what you set out to do?

Keep analyzing how you handled the power of intent in meetings until it becomes a natural process for you to determine your intent, share your intent and move towards it in your meetings.

You will suddenly find that no matter who you are meeting, whether it is your home office work team or a client in a country with a totally different culture, the process still works the same for you.

To complete the negotiation process effectively, work in time to thoughtfully consider the intent of the person you are meeting. What do you think they want to achieve from this meeting? What is their true intent? What purpose do they wish to fulfill through a meeting of their mind with yours?


The Bridging Principles is a blog about doing business and life differently to create better results for all. Click here to subscribe for free. To pre-order a copy of the book “The Bridging Principles: Building Bridges for Business,” coming out soon, click here. To arrange for training in The Bridging Principles for your company, email

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