Dealing With Difficult Negotiators

Screaming, yelling, ranting, raving, cursing, throwing items across the table, hanging up the phone in your ear … Many of us have difficulty with negotiators who do these things

Screaming, yelling, ranting, raving, cursing, throwing items across the table, hanging up the phone in your ear … Many of us have difficulty with negotiators who do these things.
Outrageous Behavior

These outrageous behaviors can shake us up, intimidate, scare, or upset us.

Why? The most common explanation is that our fight-flight response is evoked. Fighting rarely gets us moving toward a meaningful agreement. Fright can cause us to make compromises or give concessions we would otherwise never entertain.

Why Do They Do It?

Why do some negotiators rely on outrageous behavior to get their way? Because they can … or because they have in the past.

But, we don’t have to allow this behavior to cause us to give in.

Feigned Emotion

Some negotiators act as if they are emotionally upset when they really are not.

Usually, this negotiator is the sophisticated, high level, manipulator who is looking for an advantage. His intention is calculated. The results sought are pre-planned.

Tantrum Behavior

The overwhelming majority of screamers are just stuck in a tantrum behavior pattern. As a child, they threw tantrums and got what they wanted. As an adolescent, they pressed the bounds of behavior. As an adult, they just act like big babies who must have what they want!

What Can We Do?

Whether the outrageous behavior is fake or real, we can deal with it without making serious compromises.

Silence is first. Not engaging a screamer … letting the screamer go uninterrupted works many times. Some negotiators simply want to be heard. Genuinely upset, some negotiators become quite compliant after they have vented. In fact, sometimes the boomerang effect can set in … that is, a screamer after venting will accept whatever is offered, and may even give more than expected.

Avoid Taunts. Many times we fall into taunting behavior as a defense, “Are you finished?” … “Yell a little louder!” … “Who do you think you are talking to?” These responses do not help. We must avoid these taunts, secure in the knowledge that our objective of a negotiated agreement is primary. Mirror Behavior. This probably sounds contradictory (and probably is) but sometimes shouting back can be the answer. This technique has limited utility but when effective is best used as an out of character response. People who almost never yell can use mirroring effectively on really important issues.

Feel, Felt, Found. The feel, felt, found technique works well with outrageous behavior because at its core, this technique seems to validate the unaccepted behavior … and then provides enlightenment. Feel … “I understand how you feel.” This is the validation or commiseration phase. Felt … “Many people in your position would have felt the same way.” This is the generalization phase. Your irate counterpart is in league with many other (ill-informed) people. Found. “But understanding … (Point A, B, C) … most people have found our position is quite reasonable.” The A, B, and C are the features, benefits, and additional appeals that support our position.

Positive Outrageous Behavior. Give them a reason to laugh. Goofy behavior, funny statements, and strange responses that cause laughter can many times disarm the worst tantrum behavior pattern.

Good luck dealing with difficult negotiators … we all need it!

John Patrick Dolan, Attorney at Law, Certified Specialist Criminal Law, CSP, CPAE is a recognized expert in the field of negotiation. He travels throughout the world presenting lively keynote speeches and in-depth training programs for business and legal professionals helping you with negotiation skills. Call 760-775-3739 for more information.

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