Negotiation: when people are the problem

When a win-win outcome is impossible you need to know how to protect your business.

Negotiation: when people are the problem
Nine times out of 10, when it comes to negotiation, issues, not people are the problem. But very occasionally, certain personality types make a mutually-agreeable settlement impossible.

Psychologist Judith White, writing in the Harvard Business Review, identifies who to avoid, and how to avoid your business being seriously damaged.

1. Negotiators with hot/cold temperaments

“Beware the person who is conciliatory at first, then becomes provocative – and, when you’re about to walk away becomes conciliatory again”, explains White.
The temperament of a reasonable counterparty should only move in one direction – from provocative to conciliatory, for example. Constantly alternating suggests they aren’t looking for a negotiated settlement, but to control you, so don’t waste energy playing mind-games with them.
2. Negotiators who see the world in black/white terms

“Watch out for someone who describes people as absolutely good and blameless, or as absolutely evil and responsible”, White advises. This kind of person struggles to separate people from contentious issues, which is the whole point of negotiation. They may look to punish you personally, which means that negotiation will be slow and painful, because they don’t believe you deserve meaningful concessions.

When you encounter these types of people, here are four steps you should take:
  • Be realistic: this person is not going to change
  • Stop making concessions: we make concessions to reach agreements, which in this case is not going to happen. Try to finish the current negotiation with minimal losses, although these may be inevitable.
  • Reduce interdependence: whether that be payment in lump sum rather than in portions, or working separately on different parts of the same project rather than collaborating
  • Make it public: avoid private discussions, and get everything in writing. This will help any third parties you decide to bring in
Read the original HBR article here.