In January 2015 the Negotiation Briefings newsletter featured an article, “Dealing with difficult people – even when you don’t want to,” discussing the impasse NATO leaders had reached with Russian President Vladimir Putin with regards to his unilateral actions in the Crimea. Aside from exhibiting obstinacy in the face of a unified European front, Putin also proffered a unilateral solution to the Ukraine crisis using a seven point memo he had written on a napkin prior to the summit, a seven point memo which he then failed to implement in any meaningful way.
Negotiations are rarely ideal scenarios and thus much of negotiation research focuses on discovering both the ideal negotiator and equipping her with the ability to know when and how to negotiate when it is strategically advantageous for her. While research and preparation can focus on the individual negotiator, it often fails to prepare negotiators for the kinds of obstinate hard bargainers they will encounter in everyday life.
Choosing not to negotiate is rarely an option, and, indeed, not an option that students of integrative negotiations typically want to explore but recognizing a difficult negotiator and his tactics for what they are will often lead to agreement even in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.