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How Long Do Negotiations Take?

The Scotwork Team

Negotiations happen in both professional and personal settings. Whether it’s business deals or personal relationships, you are likely to encounter negotiation situations regularly. The duration of negotiations can vary hugely depending on the matter being negotiated and several other factors.

This article will discuss negotiation timeframes and provide hands-on advice to help you reduce timescales and reach your negotiation goals faster.

How Long Do Negotiations Take?

There is no straightforward answer to this question as the timescales of negotiations can be influenced by multiple factors. A simple discussion about where to eat with friends may be resolved within minutes while complex business deals could take months or even years to finalise.

What Factors Can Affect Negotiation Timescales?

Number of participants

Keep in mind that it will take longer to reach an agreement when a negotiation involves several parties. This is especially true if the participants have conflicting interests or differing expectations.


The general rule is that the more complex the matter being negotiated, the longer it will take to reach an agreement. Complicated matters often have a lengthy negotiation process as they require significant research, hours of preparation, and multiple rounds of discussions before an agreement is reached.


The availability of resources, such as time and expertise, can also impact the duration of negotiations. Limited resources are likely to cause delays, particularly if the matter is complex and there are several key components in the negotiation process.

What is the Impact of Time Pressure on Negotiations?

The Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, tells us that roughly 80% of concessions come in the last 20% of time left to negotiate. Generally speaking, participants are less likely to make concessions early on, as they believe they still have plenty of time.


Time pressure can help speed up negotiations by motivating participants to make faster decisions and reach agreements within specific timescales. Setting deadlines helps structure the negotiation process and avoid unnecessary delays. It also encourages participants to focus on key components and work towards a mutually beneficial outcome.

Navigating time pressure in negotiations

While time pressure can have a positive impact on negotiations, it can cause issues when used excessively. Unreasonable deadlines may cause participants to overlook key aspects of the agreement and rush into decisions they would not otherwise have made.


The participant that is under the most time pressure will often accept concessions more quickly, display submissive behaviour, and be less able to explore alternative solutions. This can damage partnerships and lead to suboptimal agreements.


Here are 5 tips to deal with time pressure in negotiations and avoid the pitfalls mentioned above.

  1. Check what deadlines are applicable early on in the negotiation process.
  2. Find out whether a deadline is genuine and justified.
  3. Ask what will happen if you don’t meet the deadline.
  4. Voice your concerns to the other party and see whether a deadline extension is possible.
  5. Make sure that you track deadlines and prepare for them in advance.

Reducing Negotiation Timeframes

Negotiations can be lengthy but simple strategies can help reduce negotiation timeframes, including:

Early preparation

Preparation is key if you want the negotiation process to run smoothly and avoid delays. Take the time to research the matter being discussed and have a clear understanding of your objectives early on.

Effective communication

Maintaining clear communication is crucial if you want to avoid misunderstandings and delays. Practice active listening, discuss your objectives openly, and ask for clarification when needed.

Priorities and concessions

Know your priorities and be prepared to make reasonable concessions to reach a mutually beneficial agreement. Identifying your key interests will streamline the negotiation process and make it easier to reach agreements.

Contact Scotwork

Reach out to our negotiation experts if you would like professional guidance navigating complex negotiations. Our team has over 45 years of experience and provides specialist negotiation training and consultancy to individuals and businesses in the UK and worldwide.

Get in touch to find out how we can help you achieve your negotiation goals within reasonable timeframes.

Key takeaways

The timescales of negotiations can be influenced by multiple factors such as the complexity of the matter, the number of participants, and available resources.

Time pressure can help speed up the duration of negotiations, although excessive time pressure should be avoided as it can lead to suboptimal outcomes.

You can reduce negotiation timeframes by preparing in advance, maintaining effective communication, and having a clear understanding of your priorities and objectives.



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