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.


difficult negotiations

What are Difficult Negotiations?

Often the most difficult negotiations we encounter are in our personal lives.

Some of the most difficult negotiations happen when a dispute occurs between family and friends, but it is possible to solve a conflict with negotiation skills. The same mutual gains and integrative negotiation techniques you use in business work in personal negotiations, as well.

By listening closely to the concerns and feelings expressed by a family member or friend, and understanding their perspective, one can begin to rebuild trust, a key component in any relationship.

In his book, Beyond Reason: Using Emotions as You Negotiate, Daniel Shapiro, Associate Director of the Harvard Negotiation Project, emphasizes that understanding the other party’s key concerns is essential in difficult negotiations involving powerful emotions. When both parties understand these core concerns, emotions can become an asset rather than an obstacle. This is as true in personal negotiations as it is when dealing with high-stakes international conflict.

But how should you approach difficult negotiations with potential negotiating partners who are dishonest negotiators, or whom you don’t entirely trust—or should you deal with them at all?

There are several common deceptions you may come across in difficult negotiations such as this. Among them, an escalation of commitment.

You may find you’ve made a significant investment, such as considerable time or an up-front payment, before you’ve agreed on a deal. The other party may be aware that you (like most people) will be less willing to walk away and admit defeat after sinking resources into the negotiation. When faced with such a bargaining strategy, remember that such “sunk costs” are gone forever—and that there’s no shame in walking away from a shady deal.

To find out more, you can download a complimentary copy of our special report, Dealing with Difficult People, right now!

The following items are tagged difficult negotiations:

BATNA and Other Sources of Power at the Negotiation Table

Posted by & filed under BATNA.

BATNA negotiations involve a negotiators knowledge of her best alternatives to a negotiated agreement and are one of three sources of negotiating power at the bargaining table, according to negotiation researcher Adam D. Galinsky and New York University’s Joe C. Magee. … Read  

Harvard Negotiation Master Class: Advanced Strategies for Experienced Negotiators – May 8-10, 2023

Posted by & filed under Harvard Negotiation Master Class.

Strictly limited to 60 participants who have completed a prior course in negotiation, this first-of-its-kind program offers unprecedented access to experts from Harvard Law School, Harvard Business School, and the Harvard Kennedy School—all of whom are committed to delivering a transformational learning experience. … Read  

Negotiation Master Class May 2023 Program Guide

Posted by & filed under Free Report.

Over the years thousands of professionals have participated in negotiation programs at the Program on Negotiation (PON) at Harvard Law School. And after a few months or years of putting their negotiation skills and techniques to work, participants inevitably ask us, what’s next? … Read  

3 Keys to Effective Leadership in Difficult Negotiations

Posted by & filed under Conflict Resolution.

A medical facility might not be the first place you think of for effective leadership in a negotiation. But that’s precisely what took place between a doctor and his patients. At Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) in New York City, a leading cancer research and treatment institution, doctors often will advise men who are … Read  

Overcoming Resistance: The Influence Equation

Posted by & filed under One-Day Expert Programs.

Through breakout sessions, exercises, role plays, and other hands-on experiences, Carlebach will explain what to do when you encounter resistance. This session will introduce you to the Influence Equation—a simple, high-impact framework that can help you identify and overcome three major factors that fuel resistance in any given negotiation. … Read  

Dispute Resolution: Building Momentum through Small Wins

Posted by & filed under Dealing with Difficult People.

Sometimes disputes are left to fester for years, even decades, until parties decide there is something to be gained from reaching agreement. In 2015, the nations of Bangladesh and India seized on an opportunity to push the “restart” button on a contentious border disagreement through dispute resolution. Such international conflict resolution examples can illustrate how … Read  

Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most

Posted by & filed under 1 Day Courses, executive training.

Whether dealing with a challenging customer, a difficult supplier, an unhappy employee, an unreasonable official, or a demanding boss, we all have conversations we anticipate with dread. Gain the strategies, tools, and frameworks you need to manage difficult conversations effectively in this one-day program led by negotiation experts Bruce Patton and Douglas Stone. … Read  

Dispute Resolution for India and Bangladesh

Posted by & filed under International Negotiation.

Sometimes in international negotiation, disputes are left to fester for years, even decades, until parties decide there is something to be gained from reaching agreement. In an example of a cross cultural negotiation case study, the nations of Bangladesh and India seized on an opportunity to push the “restart” button on their bumpy relationship by … Read  

Change Management: Negotiating Organizational Change in the 21st Century

Posted by & filed under 1 Day Courses, executive training.

Change is vital to organizational growth, health, and survival. It is also incredibly difficult to execute well—often resulting in diminished morale and feelings of anxiety and mistrust. In fact, researchers estimate that less than half of major corporate change projects at Fortune 1000 firms have been successful. … Read  

Dear Negotiation Coach: Building Trust with Reluctant Counterparts

Posted by & filed under Dealing with Difficult People.

Tetsushi Okumura is a professor at the Tokyo University of Science and has been a visiting scholar at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. His research articles have appeared in leading management and psychology journals, and he has translated into Japanese many popular books on negotiation. Recently, Okumura has been interviewing Japanese government negotiators to … Read  

Negotiating Difficult Conversations: Dealing with Tough Topics Productively

Posted by & filed under Harvard Negotiation Institute, Harvard Negotiation Institute (Five-Day Programs).

Course Dates: This course is closed When negotiations become difficult, emotions often escalate and talks break down. To overcome barriers and turn negotiations from difficult to collaborative, from breakdown to breakthrough, you must learn to understand the inter- and intra-personal dynamics at play. In this program, you will examine how your own assumptions and behaviors can … Read  

Managing Difficult Negotiations: Lessons from the 2015-2017 Illinois Budget Impasse

Posted by & filed under Dispute Resolution.

On July 6, 2017, the state of Illinois finally resolved a 793-day budget impasse, the longest such impasse in U.S. history. The economically devastating stalemate between Republican then-governor Bruce Rauner and the Democratic-controlled state legislature, triggered by hardball negotiation tactics, offers lessons to negotiators managing difficult negotiations. An Agenda and a Condition As Illinois politicians approached negotiations … Read  

Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most

Posted by & filed under 1 Day Courses, executive training.

Whether dealing with a challenging customer, a difficult supplier, an unhappy employee, an unreasonable official, or a demanding boss, we all have conversations we anticipate with dread. Gain the strategies, tools, and frameworks you need to manage difficult conversations effectively in this one-day program led by negotiation experts Bruce Patton and Douglas Stone. … Read  

Dear Negotiation Coach: Can External Advisers Hinder a Problem Solving Approach?

Posted by & filed under Mediation.

There are numerous advantages to hearing from external advisers and experts in a high-stakes negotiation. However, when talks are at an impasse, limiting the negotiation to a small number of participants may be a more beneficial problem solving approach than including outside opinions. This was at the heart of a recent question answered by Guhan Subramanian, … Read  

Negotiating Controversial Issues in Difficult Negotiations

Posted by & filed under Crisis Negotiations.

When you’re trying to negotiate a hot-button issue in difficult negotiations, what’s the best approach to take? That was the question facing U.S. president Donald Trump as he and his administration attempted to convince the government of Mexico to fund a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, in addition to negotiating other matters of concern to … Read  

Negotiation with Your Children: How to Resolve Family Conflicts

Posted by & filed under Conflict Resolution.

Few negotiation examples in real life demonstrate the benefit of effective conflict resolution skills than those disputes that arise in the home, such as those between parents and children. Getting a good night’s sleep and eating a healthy dinner might seem like obvious goals for parents to have for their young children, but kids won’t … Read  

Kissinger the Negotiator: New Book on Dealmaking and Diplomacy

Posted by & filed under Teaching Negotiation.

Lessons from Dealmaking at the Highest Level In this groundbreaking, definitive guide to the art of negotiation, PON faculty James Sebenius (Harvard Business School) and Robert Mnookin (Harvard Law School), along with R. Nicholas Burns of the Harvard Kennedy School, offer a comprehensive examination of one of the most successful dealmakers of all time: Henry Kissinger. Politicians, … Read  

Dealing with Difficult People – In and Outside of Congress

Posted by & filed under Dealing with Difficult People.

In business negotiations, we sometimes face the task of dealing with difficult people—those who seem to pick fights, hold offensive views, or rely on hard-bargaining tactics. Some of us naturally turn away from such difficult negotiations. Others choose to try to overlook or overcome the flaws they see in potential negotiating partners. … Read  

Financial Negotiations During the Banking Crisis: Did the Mortgage Foreclosure Settlement Meet Its Goals?

Posted by & filed under Business Negotiations.

The mortgage foreclosure settlement reached by the Obama Administration and major US banks bailed out during the 2008 financial crisis illustrates the importance of an integrative negotiations approach to bargaining with your counterpart. Here are the strategies and techniques employed by each side to reach a consensus on the mortgage foreclosure settlement. … Read  

Working on multiple deals? Look for ways to connect the dots

Posted by & filed under Dealmaking.

In negotiation, lightbulb moments—the kind that seem to magically dissolve disputes and create stellar contracts—can be few and far between. We might be lucky to have one such flash of insight over the course of a complicated dealmaking process. Recently, Major League Baseball’s (MLB’s) New York Yankees were fortunate to experience a breakthrough that neatly … Read  

Tough Negotiation Tips from Jennifer Aniston?

Posted by & filed under Negotiation Skills.

Fans of the television show Friends got a treat last month when Netflix made all 236 episodes of the blockbuster hit available to stream online. At first glance actors Lisa Kudrow, Jennifer Aniston and the rest of the star-studded cast might not be your first pick to peg as formidable negotiators, but at the height … Read  

Deal Making Without a Net: Yahoo’s Tumblr Acquisition

Posted by & filed under Dealmaking.

On May 19, Internet company Yahoo announced that it was purchasing the blogging service Tumblr for about $1.1 billion in cash. The acquisition could put a fresh face on the aging Internet company and provide it with a profitable revenue source—or it could turn out to be another instance of the Web pioneer overpaying for … Read  

Managing Internal Conflict: Russia’s Bid to Join the WTO

Posted by & filed under Conflict Resolution.

In June 1993, a little over a year after the fall of communist rule in Russia, President Boris Yeltsin submitted an application for Russia to join the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the precursor to the World Trade Organization (WTO). Eighteen years later, in November 2011, Russia finally was voted into the WTO, … Read  

Dr. Ury featured in Washington Post article on debt ceiling negotiations

Posted by & filed under Conflict Resolution.

In a recent article published in the Washington Post, Dr. William Ury, co-founder of the Program on Negotiation, suggests that Republicans and Democrats hammering out a deal on the national debt ceiling could benefit from the experience of negotiators. Professional negotiators know that certain tactics can backfire in tense situations.  Issuing ultimatums, publicly criticizing your counterpart, … Read  

Video of Professor Mnookin’s Interview on PBS

Posted by & filed under Daily, News, Resources, Videos.

PON Chair, Professor Robert Mnookin was featured last night on the  PBS NewsHour. He discusses the art of doing difficult negotiations during tough economic times.

To learn more about Professor Mnookin’s recent book, “Bargaining with the Devil: When to Negotiate, When to Fight,” click here. To watch more PON videos, click here. … Read  

Program on Negotiation saddened by the loss of 2007 Great Negotiator, Bruce Wasserstein

Posted by & filed under Daily, Great Negotiator Award, News.

The Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School was saddened to learn of the death of Bruce Wasserstein, PON’s 2007 Great Negotiator. The Great Negotiator Award is  given to recognize an individual whose lifetime achievements in the field of negotiation and dispute resolution have had a significant and lasting impact. Wasserstein, Chairman and CEO of  … Read  

Facilitating within a Group Structure

Posted by & filed under Negotiation Skills.

Consider the dilemma faced by Joe, the vice president of semiconductor technology at one of the largest computer companies in the world. He is also the chair of an alliance made up of representatives from six other large companies. The group works together to develop and acquire certain production technologies. The group also second-guesses every … Read