Wednesday, February 15, 2017
Sometimes negotiations can come to a complete standstill. Both parties are exhausted from trying to reach an agreement that seems impossible to achieve. Frustration is rising and tempers are flaring. Is there any way past this huge roadblock?
Here are ten strategies to try when you find yourself stuck in a negotiation that doesn’t seem to be getting anywhere.
- SEPARATE THE PEOPLE FROM THE PROBLEM: If the negotiations have gotten heated, it’s easy for either party to start taking things personally. Make sure you are focusing on the issue and not on your personal annoyance with the individual across the table.
- CHANGE PERSPECTIVE: Put yourself in the other party’s shoes and try to understand their perspective. Explore their motivations. Try to discover what may be going on to influence their behavior. What are their reasons, and whose agenda are they working in the interest of?
- CHANGE APPROACH: If doing things one way isn’t working, switch it up. Break a big problem down into smaller issues you can tackle one at a time. Or if you’ve been negotiating line-by-line, take a step back from details to see the bigger picture.
- CHANGE FOCUS: Take a break from a hot-button issue and discuss something else instead. If you can’t solve this problem, is there another one you can solve together? Working side-by-side can help you make progress, calm things down, and reset the tone of the negotiation.
- TAKE A BREATHER: If tempers are high, call a recess so people can get their emotions under control. Intense emotions cloud logical thought and good judgment, and negotiations can be exhausting. Sometimes a short break is all that is needed to refresh and get things moving again.
- BRAINSTORM: If we field every idea we can think of, we can then work together with the other party to select the best option. Avoid making assumptions about what the “right” answer is – there may be an out-of-the-box solution that will surprise you both.
- LISTEN UP: Make sure you are really listening to what the other side is saying, and try paraphrasing it back to check your understanding. This helps the other party feel heard, and can clear up conflicts that are based on misunderstandings.
- BUILD MOMENTUM: Start with one issue at a time, preferably simple issues, and use them to build a collaborative momentum of agreement. Even reviewing the items you have already agreed on can help get you past the obstacle, because it shows the amount of progress that has been made. Each “yes” makes it easier to reach the next one, so we can create more agreement as we go.
- HELP THE OTHER PARTY SAVE FACE: It’s amazing how frequently this is all it takes. If we can find a way to keep the other side from looking or feeling foolish, they will often settle down and become more cooperative. Watch out for the “EGO” in “nEGOtiations” – and that goes for both
- DON’T DIG IN: It is essential to focus on underlying interests in order to achieve a win-win outcome. Digging down into a fixed position will almost surely result in deadlock, because both parties will always have differing positions, or different perceptions of what they want the outcome of the negotiation to look like. However, often you will find that both parties have common or complementary interests. If both parties take the time to explore the others’ interests, they may find a complete lack of conflict, and both may be able to get what they want without sacrificing anything at all.
The keys to principled negotiations are to maximize the opportunity for a win-win outcome by leveling the playing field as much as possible, separating the people from the problem, and to always keep your sights on the interests. Whenever a negotiation seems deadlocked, try some of these maneuvers to reach agreement around the obstacle.
Reprinted with permission by Baker Communications, Inc.