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.
What is Dealing with Difficult People in Negotiation?
One of the most common questions raised by business negotiators is how to handle difficult people. This question contains a hidden assumption:
From time to time, we may end up in the deeply unsettling position of handling difficult people who appear to have no concern for us or our outcomes. Faced with abrasive, competitive, and even unethical behavior, we view ourselves as being in the right and the other party as being wholly wrong.
Yet it’s important to consider that, in our real-life conflict scenarios, the other party may be viewing us as difficult and uncooperative. When you are confronted with difficult people (and those who just seem difficult), spend some time exploring the possible motivations behind their obstinance.
Whether you are dealing with difficult coworkers or working with difficult people more generally in your work life, the following guidelines should help you look at them in a more constructive light:
1. Listen to their concerns. To avoid dealing with difficult people, don’t give them a reason to be difficult in the first place.
2. Resist the urge to threaten. Usually, an open and honest conversation is all that is needed for parties to begin to bridge their differences and find common ground.
3. Don’t go on a power trip. The more powerful you or your team is in a negotiation, the greater the need to avoid giving the other side the impression that they are working with difficult people.
A final note: Negotiators often err in assuming that their counterparts are irrational. More often than not, the other party is simply facing constraints or stresses that are causing them to seem irrational. Before playing armchair psychologist, ask questions aimed at determining whether some unseen pressure could explain their behavior.
Discover how to collaborate, negotiate, and bargain with even the most combative opponents with, Dealing with Difficult People, a FREE report from the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School.
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