Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Negotiating with difficult people

This is the second article in this series which will give a good idea about how to deal with difficult situations and negotiate your way towards a better deal and have a win-win situation.

Have you ever had to deal with uncooperative, manipulative and hostile behaviour? What is the best way of dealing with difficult personalities/people in negotiation?
Often a lack of knowledge on how to deal with difficult personalities in negotiation leads to ineffectiveness and frustration. Negotiations where emotions play the main role don’t always have to end in win-lose outcomes. Let’s investigate what possible solutions we have to enhance our chances of reaching an agreement when dealing with difficult people.

Dealing with difficult people is one of the most challenging aspects of successful negotiation. Through practice we can without doubt improve the effectiveness of our preparation, get better at determining themost appropriate negotiation strategy and organising and managing agendas. Dealing with unreasonable or aggressive people will always remain a challenge that brings into play dynamics that can be difficult to manage. Before we look at the solution for dealing effectively with difficult negotiators lets examine the most common uncooperative personalities we can face in negotiations:

Competitive Negotiators
Probably quite often you will face negotiators who perceive negotiation as a war zone and therefore strongly believe that there need to be a winner and a loser. ‘I win, you lose’ negotiators will do anything they can to make sure they claimed most of the available value that is offered on the table.

Bullies intentionally torment others through verbal harassment, blackmailing or other more subtle forms of coercion such as manipulation. Their main objective is to intimidate and push others around and they may wish to demonstrate their superiority to you in terms of status, capabilities, competency or knowledge and experience.

Avoiders – indecisive negotiators
Avoiders physically avoid, hide out or refuse to negotiate out of fear of losing. They may constantly use the hot potato tactic, avoiding responsibility and passing all the problems back onto you.
When faced with anger and emotional behaviour we usually react instinctively, without rational thinking and this is very often not the best approach. We tend to strike back or give in when confronted with a difficult situation, which doesn’t support an interest based approach. How should we deal with such situations? The real challenge is not to persuade the other side about the consequences of their approach but to keep our own emotions under control. Only then we will be able to focus on interests and shift the interaction to the right level. People may be uncooperative in negotiation out of fear or anger or they simply don’t see any other way than competing to secure their own interests and prevent themselves from being exploited. Below you will find techniques that William Ury recommends in his book – ‘Getting Past No:
Negotiating With Difficult People’:

1. Do not react
– Diagnose and identify what’s behind your counterparty’s behaviour
Detach yourself emotionally from the situation and try to look at it objectively. Put yourself in the shoes of the third party – mediator. Identifying interests and alternatives available to a negotiated agreement (BATNAs) in a preparatory phase will help you take the right direction which may be walking away and moving towards more attractive options. Never make a decision that derives from your emotional state. Buy some time for objective analysis and decide whether it’s worth negotiating further. It is critical to know your weaknesses and what ‘hooks’ you during negotiation. We tend to misinterpret our counterparty’s intention and behaviour purely because we have different preferences with regard to communication style and expectations in this area. Stay focused on your goals and always measure your next move against those goals.

2. Disarm your counterparty
Reassure the other side and help them regain their mental balance. Use Active Listening techniques to build a position to change your counterparty’s mind and perception. People are more likely to move from positions to more constructive discussion based on interests after they are heard. It will be easier for you to influence the other side once they know you really care about their interests and underlying needs. Remember that the goal of Active Listening is to understand the other side on the level of words, thoughts and feelings. Acknowledge their point of view and resist the temptation of defending yourself. Say ‘Yes…, and’ instead of ‘Yes…, but’. Avoid judgements and accusation. Focus on shared viewpoints and build common ground around common objectives.

3. Focus on interest, not positions.
Identify the other side’s interests and state yours firmly. Share the responsibility for the actual situation and encourage your counterparty to speak openly about their personal and corporate objectives and the impact of achieving those on their personal life and corporate wellbeing. Ask ‘What if.’ questions to identify options most appealing to your counterparty. Reframe personal attacks as concerns around the problems and reinterpret initial demands as aspirations. Change the other side’s perspective and reframe the situation in terms of mutual problem solving.

4. Build a bridge towards agreement
Try to present potential agreement as built on your counterparty’s ideas and viewpoints. Ask the other side for constructive criticism and do not overlook potential intangible interests that the other side may be looking to satisfy – recognition, saving face, security etc. Ask under what circumstances the other side would be willing to agree to a proposed solution.
Armed with the right attitude you can persuade any difficult negotiator that a rational, interest-based agreement is in everyone’s best interest - common efforts towards problem solving are more profitable than a competitive and often destructive ‘win-lose’ attitude.
You are permitted to re-publish this article provided the below resource information is included at the end of the article and you provide a link back to this site.

The Negotiation Academy – - (TNA) is a global negotiation consulting firm, and negotiation skills training provider. Committed to delivering best practice based negotiation solutions, TNA collaborates with clients to instil an organisational negotiation capability. With deep industry experience, global resources and a proven track record, TNA is ideally positioned to assist clients in achieving optimal negotiation results in the domains of sales negotiation training and procurement negotiation training.

No comments: