Thoughts From Our Heads

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Dealing with a difficult negotiator

Wednesday 9th January 2019

Negotiations can be challenging at the best of times. You want something; the other party wants something else. You can see no way out of a deadlock. Negotiations are made easier when you have a good relationship, trust and open communications. However more often than not this is not the case! So what do you do if you are negotiating with someone who is being extremely difficult? This person is stubborn, closed minded and refuses to engage in a any reasonable negotiation discussions with you. Try these tips to get past the deadlock...

Get the person talking. A difficult negotiator often refuses to engage in discussion, you need to open them up. Start by discussing something non threatening and ideally something which helps you to build rapport. Once they are talking about something mundane they should be more open to discussions on your point of negotiation.

Accept their position. Difficult negotiators may want to argue with you, but they can't argue if you refuse to play ball. Acceptance is not the same as agreement. You can say, "I totally understand and accept your position." This is disarming. You then go onto explain how while valid, the circumstances dictate something else or why their option is not feasible.
Side note - HOW this is delivered is critical. If you say "I totally understand and accept your position, but..." then this will not work. You need to genuinely show that you do understand their position by putting it into your own words and asking questions. Only then should you explain your position. And DO NOT use the words but or however!

Ask open questions. Difficult negotiators make demands without justification or reasoning. You need to uncover the reasons behind what they are asking, in case there is another way their needs can be met that they haven't thought of. Asking "why? Why not? What if?" will help you to uncover what they really want.

Flip and reverse it. If a difficult negotiator won't empathise with you then you need to trick them into empathizing. Force them to see your side. Say - "If you were in my shoes what would you do?" ask "Can you understand my perspective?"

Focus on future remedies. In negotiations you don't want the conversation to get bogged down in what has happened, what went wrong and who was to blame. Keep the conversation focused on future solutions and your shared interests in the deal going through.

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