Fifteen English Negotiation Idioms

Have you ever been in a business meeting and found yourself lost in jargon? Feel left behind from not knowing what seems to be a common idiom? How do you sweeten a deal? What does it mean to stand your ground?

English Negotiation Idioms

It can be incredibly important to learn the idioms of a language to have a deeper understanding of the language that is spoken. Understanding requires a familiarity of the English language to comprehend what someone means when they use them in conversation or in some cases, in business discussions. So, let’s take a look at some common idioms that may be heard at the next business meeting or when you are trying to make an agreement with someone.

List of top fifteen English Negotiation Idioms

How many do you know?

Back and Forth

This idiom is commonly used when there are negotiations or dialogue between two or more individuals or groups to come to an agreement or understanding. You know, like words going back and forth.

Examples: 

“The companies went back and forth before coming to a partner agreement.” 

“Enough with this back and forth, let’s make an agreement.”

Drive a Hard Bargain 

To say that someone is “driving a hard bargain” means that they are negotiating very well. The person is making the deal irresistible. What would make a deal irresistible for you?

Examples:

“The price is a little expensive but you drive a hard bargain. I agree to your terms.” 

“This guy really drives a hard bargain. I think we have an agreement!”

Sweeten the Deal

This phrase is often used to make a deal or a prospective agreement seem better than previously proposed. Who doesn’t want something sweet?

Examples:

“We will sweeten the deal by offering your original request in the deal plus 20% earnings.”

“They sweetened the deal and gave me exactly what I asked for so I had to take it.”

Give and Take

This is often seen in an ongoing negotiation as compromising between the person or group’s wants or outcomes. Lots of relationships rely on healthy give and take, including business relationships.

Examples:

“After much give and take between the group’s demands, there was an agreement made.”

“There was a lot of good give and take but ultimately we went in another direction.”

Stand One’s Ground

To “stand one’s ground” means that a person is refusing to back down or to change their mind during a negotiation. In other words, the person will not back down.

Examples: 

“I’m sorry, but we will stand our ground on this decision to pass on any agreement at this time.”

“We can not change our terms in this agreement and will stand our ground on this choice.”

An Offer One Can’t Refuse

No, this is not just a famous line on “The Godfather”. This is an offer that is so attractive that it must be accepted. What is an offer you couldn’t refuse?

Examples: 

“You have made me an offer I can’t refuse.”

“Let me make you an offer you can’t refuse, we will agree to your demands and come to an agreement today.”

Drive a Wedge Between

This means that someone is using a topic or issue to separate a united group. Think “Romeo and Juliet” style of wedges.

Examples:

“They are driving a wedge between us and our supporters with this news article.”

“Don’t let this drive a wedge between the partners, we can come to terms with the new demands.

Draw a Line in the Sand

This means that someone, during the negotiation, is listing an ultimatum to swing the negotiation in their favor. Usually causes a momentary stalemate situation in negotiations.

Examples: 

“After much back and forth, we are going to have to draw a line in the sand here at this point of the negotiation.”

“This new demand is going to draw a line in the sand on the progress we have already made in our discussions.”

Trial Balloon

This term describes a test of reaction by individuals or within the public realm. It’s considered more of a test to see what the public has to say.

Examples:

“The senator is floating trial balloons to test public opinion on the proposed bill.”

“Let’s create some trial balloons on this and see the reaction we may get from the other partners.”

Come to Terms with Something

To feel acceptance towards something bad that has happened. Usually have a hardship or an issue has arisen.

Examples:

“We are prepared to come to terms with the fact that we are not able to agree in these negotiations.”

“We will have to come to terms with our loss of this potential agreement.”

Bargaining Chip

Using something important or wanted by the other party in order to gain or come to an agreement. A bargaining chip can be incredibly useful in order to get someone to agree to your terms.

Examples:

“We are going to use a price decrease as a bargaining chip to see if we can come to a quick agreement.”

“Using the increase in money shares was a great bargaining chip and was the reason we were able to come to a swift agreement with the company.

To Cut a Deal

This simply means to agree on something. Congrats! You have made a deal, hopefully with all of your original terms met.

Examples:

“I decided to cut a deal with the company to sell my new designs.”

“I want to quickly cut a deal with you. What are your term and demands?”

A Hard Sell 

Hard selling uses a direct approach to sales negotiation and is known as “high-pressure selling”. The person or company that proposed the deal is being straightforward with what they want and what they can agree to.

Examples:

“This brand of clothing was a hard sell to companies in Canada.”

“A product like this can be a hard sell to most companies. It may be difficult to get an agreement.”

Meet Halfway

Meeting someone halfway means that you are willing to give part of what someone is wanting to obtain and/or make a compromise. This tactic can be useful in getting someone to make an agreement about your demands as well as gaining their own to a degree.

Examples:

“I will meet you halfway and get the proposed necessities to finish the project.”

“Let’s meet each other halfway in order to cut a deal.”

Sticking Point

An issue or problem that causes an interruption or blocks progress in negotiations. Think of really sticky shoes. You probably aren’t getting very far with those.

Examples: 

“This news is a real sticking point in our back and forth negotiations.”

A sticking point in this case what that the other companies were standing their ground and not wanting to change the demands that they set forth.”

Practice

Let’s practice using the idioms about negotiations! When answering, try to use the new idioms that we just covered.

  1. What would you call the discussions that happen between two people or between groups in order to come to an agreement?
  2. Which idiom could be used to describe someone who is negotiating really well or offering terms that are difficult to pass on?
  3. Are there any terms that could be used in order to test a proposed idea?
  4. What would it mean to use a “bargaining chip” during negotiations?
  5. If negotiations or talks between two groups or people were to come to a stop, what idiom could be used to describe that?
  6. We have made a deal! What idioms would you use to describe this moment?
  7. What’s an offer that you could not refuse?
  8. What are some ways that a person could sweeten the deal in order to get someone to agree to their terms?
  9. Have you ever had to meet someone halfway in order to get them to agree with you?
  10. What is a hard sell for you when choosing a product to purchase at the store?
  11. Were any of these idioms known to you or have you heard them before and were unsure of what their meaning(s) were?

Wrap-Up

Congratulations! You have learned some very important idioms when making negotiations with someone. These idioms can be used both in business and as well as daily life situations when making agreements.

See also:

By Bradford Jones

Hi, I'm Brad. I've spent the last seven years teaching English and creating websites for English learners and teachers. I recently moved from Costa Rica to Orlando, Florida, where I teach intensive English classes at a state college. If you'd like to contact me, I can be reached via email at bradfordcjones@gmail.com.