As much as we want negotiations with our counterparts to be mutually beneficial, there are times when we are faced with difficult negotiators who just aren’t willing to budge on anything. Sometimes these negotiators can even be adversarial, resorting to manipulative or bullying techniques to get their way. So, what do you do if you find yourself face to face with a difficult negotiator? No matter how the other person acts or what tactics they employ, it is important to respond in a certain way in order to keep the negotiation moving forward. Consider the following tips for negotiating with someone who wants to play hardball.
Take a Deep Breath and Stay Calm
No matter how the other party acts, what strategy they use, or what behavior they display, you need to stay in control. Oftentimes, when we are attacked by an adversarial negotiator, our first instinct is to fight back. In reality, however, this is the time to take a deep breath and remain calm. Taking a deep breath releases oxygen to the brain, delaying your fight or flight response and lowering your blood pressure and this is important so you can take time to think. If you let your emotions get the best of you, you might end up making the situation worse. Rather, take a deep breath and count to 10 before moving any further.
Acknowledge Their Viewpoint
Even if you completely disagree with the other person, there is a lot of power in acknowledging their feelings. Really listen to what they have to say and let them know you hear them. Validate their feelings by letting them know you are listening and that you respect and value their position. One of the most common reasons why people are difficult is because they simply don’t feel heard. A great way to do this is by asking them some open-ended questions such as, “Tell me more about why this is important to you” or “Can you tell me more about what is upsetting you?” Often just asking a few questions and allowing them to share their feelings can diffuse the situation and create an atmosphere of collaboration instead of conflict.
Don’t Lose Focus on Why You are There
It’s easy to get lost in the chaos of the situation but don’t lose sight of why you are there. Remain focused on your objectives and don’t let bullying tactics or aggressive behaviors get you off track. At this point, you want to transfer the focus to a different issue and reframe the discussion around your shared interests. Remind the other party that you are there to find a solution that is beneficial to both parties.
Offer Mutually Beneficial Alternatives
In many cases, the secret to a successful negotiation is the ability to think creatively about how to find a collaborative solution. This is where preparation comes into play. Prior to the negotiation, you should have gathered as much information as possible about what is motivating the other party and what problems they are looking to solve. You need to come to the negotiation prepared to suggest mutually beneficial solutions. Be prepared to be flexible and be willing to consider alternative solutions.
When you are dealing with a tough negotiator, sometimes you need to show that you are just as tough. You should always be courteous and respectful, but that doesn’t mean you have to let others walk all over you. All too often these tough negotiators feel like they can bully you to take control, but as soon as you let them know that you will not accept that, it can be a game changer. You could say something like, “I am here to work with you but your language and behavior are not acceptable. You are free to do business with someone else but as long as you are dealing with me, I expect to be shown the same respect that I show you.” Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and never subject yourself to someone else’s verbal abuse or bullying tactics.