Ways to Negotiate with an Uncooperative Coworker

Negotiations are tough enough but what happens when your counterpart is completely uncooperative?  Better yet, what if this uncooperative counterpart is your coworker?   It can be incredibly frustrating and even maddening to try and reason with an unreasonable person.  You might be valiantly trying to reach an agreement with this person to no avail.  The truth is you can’t reason with someone who is completely unreasonable.  Luckily, however, there are ways to diffuse and manage these dicey situations in order to achieve common ground.


Listening is the most important step in dealing with a difficult person.  The main reason they come across so unreasonable is that they want to feel like their voice is heard.  No progress can take place until the other person feels acknowledged.  When you are listening to your coworker, really focus on what they are saying rather than what you are going to say next.  This will make them feel respected and will make them relinquish a little bit of their dominance.

Stay Calm

This might be the most difficult part of negotiating with a difficult person.  After all, you can only take so much before you want to scream at them for being so unreasonable.  When the conversation gets emotionally charged it’s easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment and lose your cool.  Unfortunately, uncooperative people are relentless and this will get you nowhere.  If you want to negotiate effectively, you are going to have to maintain your composure and keep things moving along calmly.

Be Empathetic

It’s not easy showing empathy toward someone who is being totally uncooperative.  However, you should consider that there might be more to your coworker than meets the eye.  There might be a deeper reason as to why they are acting so difficult.  When you show empathy, you are letting that person know that you really do care about their feelings and point of view.  This doesn’t mean you have to agree with them, but rather it simply means that you respect them.

Bring Solutions

When you are negotiating with someone who is uncooperative, you have to let them know that you are in control of the situation.  Don’t just meet with them to discuss the issue or problem; instead come prepared with solutions in mind.  Difficult people often appreciate those who come from a competent and powerful position.  If you come with a few reasonable solutions in mind, they are more likely to hear you out and possible reach an agreement.

Focus on Consequence

The ability to assert consequence is one the most important skills you can use to bring a difficult person back down to size.  When you offer a compelling argument explaining the consequences if they refuse to cooperate, it can cause that person to pause and shift from defensive to cooperative.  The power of consequence can be a powerful tool if used correctly and can help you to successfully negotiate with aggressive and unreasonable people.