How to Prepare for Manipulative Negotiations

As much as we want negotiations with our counterparts to be fair, honest, and friendly, there are times when we might encounter a more difficult negotiator. Sometimes these negotiators will even employ manipulative tactics to get what they want. This can make the situation a little tricky to navigate, especially if the person isn’t willing to budge. So what should you do if you are faced with a manipulative negotiator? Regardless of their techniques, it is important to stay calm and composed under the pressure. Here are a few tips for how to prepare yourself for manipulative negotiations. 

Be clear about your goals for the negotiation.

Some negotiators will use manipulative tactics such as deadline pressure, false competition, power, or time delays to get their way. However, you can neutralize these tactics by having a clear understanding of exactly what you want before the negotiation even begins. If you know what your goals are ahead of time, you won’t crack under the pressure or allow yourself to get tricked into making a bad decision. Knowing your goals allows you to keep the negotiations on track, no matter how hard the other negotiator tries to derail it. 

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. 

Oftentimes, a manipulative negotiator will try to get you to agree to a deal by employing strategies such as deadline pressure or false competition. For example, they may say something like “If we don’t sign this deal by Friday, I can’t guarantee the delivery date you need.” In this case, be prepared to ask questions to find out how firm the deadline really is. You may say something like, “May I speak to another supervisor about this deadline?” It is in your best interest to be skeptical before deciding whether or not a deadline is real. Another powerful manipulation tactic is to make you believe there is fasle competition. For example, the other party may create a false claim that “I will have to check other bids because company XYZ sells the same thing for less.” In this case, you need to be ready to ask questions to back up their claim such as “When did you get this price?” “ Can you tell me more about their product or service?” You want to gather as much information as possible to see if they really are offering the same product or service for less money. 

Be mindful of your body language.

Manipulators will try their best to break you and throw you off your game. Their goal is to catch you off guard so you will agree to their terms. Believe it or not, they will be able to gauge whether or not you are a good target by your body language. For example, they may see the puzzled expression on your face or the fact that you keep averting your eyes. They may also see how you begin squirming in your seat or fidgeting with your hands. All of these are signs that they have you right where they want you. The way in which you present yourself will determine how far they will push your buttons. Therefore, be prepared to recognize your emotions and become aware of your body language. Try maintaining good eye contact, speaking with authority, keeping your shoulders up and back, and your hands and feet still. The more you exert a commanding and confident presence, the less they will try to manipulate you. 

Offer mutually beneficial alternatives.

Sometimes you can save yourself from manipulation by offering a collaborative solution. If the other party comes at you with a manipulative tactic, try offering a mutually beneficial alternative instead. An example might be something like this: “I can’t agree to the price you demand at this time but I can offer you additional services that can help improve your overall net profit.” Prepare a few creative solutions ahead of time and be ready to pull these out during the negotiation. Remember to look for solutions that will solve their problem while also benefiting you as well. You can also show your authority by giving them the choice to walk away if they want. This leaves them with the pressure to decide whether or not to take the deal.