10 Hard Bargaining Negotiation Skills

The best negotiation skills of hard bargainers can catch you off guard

By on / BATNA

10 Hard Bargaining Negotiation Skills

Negotiating skills for dealing with situations as they arise at the bargaining table are always in high demand. Strategies prepared before coming to the bargaining table are one way to anticipate events during negotiations, but expert negotiators know that the bargaining style of their counterpart will impact, positively or negatively, even the best laid plans. Don’t be caught unprepared by hard bargainers, warn Robert Mnookin, Scott Peppet, and Andrew Tulumello in their book Beyond Winning.

Negotiation Skills for Dealing with Difficult Negotiators

Extreme demands and few concessions is indicative of a hard, distributive negotiations mindset. This strategy sees negotiation as a win-lose scenario, and, while effective in claiming value, it is rarely conducive to building a relationship with your counterpart. An integrative negotiation strategy looks at negotiations as a potential win-win scenario in which each side gets to share some part of the value on the table. Further, this mindset sees relationships and building relationships with your counterparts as integral to process. Integrative negotiators will employ negotiation tactics aimed at creating value and bridging the gap between the parties. Commitment tactics and take-it-or-leave-it offers are part of distributive negotiation strategy and are meant to limit both a counterpart’s options as well as knowledge about the other side’s true interests.

Discover how to unleash your power at the bargaining table in this free special report, BATNA Basics: Boost Your Power at the Bargaining Table, from Harvard Law School.

Here is the top 10 list of hardball tactics in negotiation to watch out for, from the authors of Beyond Winning.

1. Extreme demands followed up by small, slow concessions.

  • Don’t let a strong demand “anchor” your expectations. Be clear going in about your own demands, alternatives, and the bottom line – and don’t be rattled by an aggressive opponent

2. Commitment tactics.

  • Your opponent may say that his hands are tied or that he has only limited discretion in negotiating. Make sure that these commitment tactics are real.

3. Take-it-or-leave-it offers.

  • Offers are never nonnegotiable. Try ignoring the demand and focus on the content of the offer instead.

4. Inviting unreciprocated offers.

  • When you make an offer, wait for a counteroffer before reducing your demands. Don’t bid against yourself.

5. Trying to make you flinch.

  • Your opponent keeps making demands, waiting for you to reach your breaking point. Don’t fall for it.

6. Personal insults and feather ruffling.

  • These personal attacks can feed on your insecurities and make you vulnerable. Take a break if you feel yourself getting flustered, or name their tactics.

7. Bluffing, puffing, and lying.

  • Exaggerating and misrepresenting facts can throw you off guard. Be polite but skeptical.

8. Threats and warnings.

  • Want to know how to deal with threats? The first step is recognizing threats and oblique warnings as the tactics they are, which can help you stand up to them.

9. Belittling your alternatives.

  • Have a firm sense of your best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA) and don’t let your opponent shake your resolve.

10. Good cop, bad cop.

  • One of your opponents is reasonable; the other is tough. Realize that they are working together, and get your own bad cop if you need one.

At the same time, while you could leverage these hardball negotiation tactics yourself, remember that making the other side hostile could create long-term problems. Knowing about these tactics and the motivations that underlie them, a negotiator can effectively maneuver herself at the bargaining table while defusing hard bargaining negotiation strategies without harming the relationship or the negotiation.

Related BATNA Article: What is BATNA? How to Find Your Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement

Discover how to unleash your power at the bargaining table in this free special report, BATNA Basics: Boost Your Power at the Bargaining Table, from Harvard Law School.

Originally published in 2014.


5 Responses to “10 Hard Bargaining Negotiation Skills”

  • This is a helpful list.
    I understand the point about bidding against oneself, but there are times when it is to your advantage. Let’s say your “opponent” makes a very high anchor; you counter with a very low anchor. Let’s say your “opponent” says “you have to do better.” It is to your advantage that your opponent has accepted your anchor as the focal point rather than his high anchor. It is easier to inch up to find the other person’s reservation price, than having to work down from a high first offer. I would just as soon my opponent not hold on to his anchor but rather accepts mine. If that means bidding against myself, so be it.

  • Gene B.

    Recently found this post. It’s a great list. I tend to think, based upon experience that negotiation is as much about education as it is about preparation. Preparation is key – knowing your worth, knowing your industry and knowing your negotiating partner’s industry and needs. But I find the best way to reach the maximum potential of any negotiation is when you are controlling the narrative and educating your negotiating partner in a persuasive manner. Here is a blog I recently wrote discussing that sort of preparation and education. http://www.thenewyorklawblog.com/2016/07/negotiation-basics-newyork-small-business.html

  • There are two general types of bargaining, distributive bargaining and integrative bargaining.


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