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Tommy Koh's Top Tips for Successful Negotiation

Updated: May 21, 2020

In 2014, Harvard's Program on Negotiation bestowed the title of "Great Negotiator" to Singaporean diplomat Tommy Koh. Mr. Koh was the youngest ambassador in the United Nations, and later became Singapore's Ambassador to the United States. His career highlights include leading successful negotiations over China’s recognition of Singapore while preserving Singapore’s important relationship with Taiwan and being Singapore's Chief Negotiator for its Free Trade Agreement with the United States. He outlined Five Fundamental Tips for Negotiation that has guided his success.

Tommy Koh in front of a painting

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1. Master your brief

Nothing beats preparation, and you must know your position, your opponent's position, and the context of your negotiation. Doing your homework is necessary, and will serve as the foundation of the discussion.

2. Build a talented, happy, and cohesive team

Negotiation is rarely an individual sport. Take the time to build a network of trusted individuals who can articulate efficiently and communicate well. Make sure you learn what motivates each member and to nourish your relationship.