What can you do when a difficult person is the main obstacle to a promising deal? There are a number of strategies you can use to bring the deal back from the brink of failure. In a series of posts, the Program on Negotiation will offer ten suggestions.
Set Standards of Behavior
Discuss acceptable norms of behavior with a potentially difficult counterpart before you negotiate, advises Stanford University professor Stephen John Stedman, who has studied “deal spoilers” in the context of global peacemaking initiatives.Such norms can help you judge the legitimacy of the other party’s demands and behaviors. If you think tempers could rise, for example, you might agree to listen respectfully to each other and to not raise your voices. Or if you suspect someone could get cold feet at the last moment, you might pledge to discuss ways to save the deal before walking away from the negotiating table.
Avoid Dismissive Labels
Too often, we label anyone standing in the way of our goals as irrational, stubborn, or worse. Such judgments can limit our options and result in costly strategic errors. Even if you feel certain that someone’s behavior is foolish, destructive, or downright crazy, acknowledge that he is acting out of very human concerns and emotions. It’s your job to find out what they are.
Take the Pressure Off
Time pressure can cause negotiators to say no to a deal when it would be in their best interest to say yes. For this reason, be sure all parties to an agreement have ample opportunity to consider proposals and contract drafts. Calling for a break gives everyone time to make smart decisions and can head off an escalating war of words.
Discover step-by-step techniques for avoiding common business negotiation pitfalls when you download a copy of the FREE special report, Business Negotiation Strategies: How to Negotiate Better Business Deals, from the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School.
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- How Principal Agent Theory Works in Business Negotiations: Dealmaking Strategies for Bargaining with Agents