Discover how to collaborate, negotiate, and bargain with even the most combative opponents with, Dealing with Difficult People, a FREE special report from the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School.
dealing with difficult people
What is Dealing with Difficult People in Negotiation?
Dealing with difficult people involves negotiating with counterparts that you mistrust, dislike, or even think are “evil.” Nonetheless, a skilled negotiator knows where to find and create value in any negotiation.
One of the most common issues raised in negotiation, whether in high-level talks or in daily life, is around dealing with difficult people. This perception, however, contains a hidden assumption: Faced with abrasive, competitive, and even unethical behavior, we view ourselves as being in the right and the other party as being wholly wrong.
Similarly, when we are dealing with difficult people, we tend to write them off as irrational and avoid difficult conversations with them. Yet few people are truly irrational. Rather, they likely have motivations that we have trouble identifying. When confronted with difficult people (and those who just seem difficult), spend some time exploring the possible motivations behind their obstinance.
It would be unwise, however, to assume that we won’t ever come across intentionally difficult or deceptive people in some of our negotiations. When you are dealing with difficult people at the bargaining table, beware of these tactics:
- Lies about bottom lines and alternates
- “Too good to be true” offers
- Escalation of commitment on your part – especially considerable time or an up-front payment
- Lack of reciprocity
- Last-minute nibbling – especially without matching concessions
One of the best routes to success when you are dealing with difficult people in a negotiation is to look toward integrative bargaining strategies, including knowledge of your BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement) and ZOPA (zone of possible agreement).
And never hesitate to break the cycle of reaction and counter-reaction in negotiation by “going to the balcony”—that is, by imagining we are stepping back from the stage to the balcony. In doing so, we can step back, gather our wits, and look at the situation objectively. This sense of psychological distance can give us the clarity we need to identify the motives behind unfair tactics and avoid responding in kind.
To find out more about success in dealing with difficult people and making the best of stressful negotiation situations, download a complimentary copy of our special report, Dealing with Difficult People, right now!
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