Negotiating Skills: Dealing With Difficult People

on Tuesday, 25 March 2014. Posted in General

Often when negotiating or making deals you can be faced with the roadblocker or wall builder. This is the person who insists on taking hardened stances and who acts to inhibit the deal at every step.

We have two choices here, we either accept the fact a deal won’t happen and leave frustrated or we use techniques to out manoeuver the hardline stance. Below are my tips for doing just that.

negotiating skills


The simplest tactic is to avoid them and deal directly with a more collaborative partner, who wants to make a deal. This technique often happens in multiparty representation where each member of a negotiations team plays a different role. Believe me I’ve been both the road block and the compromise in my time and each of those roles are very distinct. This isn’t always possible though and sometimes you’ve got to face the tough and difficult people.

Use your BATNA:

Identifying and strengthening your BATNA is one of the most effective tools in any deal. Be very clear about what is your Best Alternative To A Negotiated Agreement. Knowing this before you start does two important things.

Firstly it gives you the confidence to deal with obstinate people and to be able to circumvent them.

Secondly it gives you the ability to persuade the other team that a collaborative approach is better because you know the effect of it not happening. This is because you have it signposted in your own mind where things are going to go if there is no deal. Use your BATNA to move obstinate people towards your BATNA. This gives you control over the outcome and will usually let them see that a deal would be better than them being dragged down a direction you’ve already planned.

BATNA in business and politics

This happens in both the business and the political world where often we keep people at the table rather than allow relationships to breakdown completely, because when that happens we are in freefall. Consider the union representative going on strike, perhaps for justifiable reasons. If we let the union rep leave we are left with placards and public demonstrations, if we know our BATNA and can lead them towards it we may well avoid the strike and breakdown in relations. In any case for an end to come to the dispute we are going to have to talk again, so keeping them at the table is fundamentally important. Or the converse consider the employer who won’t budge and who is treating employees in a poor manner. He still needs his company to function, the team still need paid employment so both sides may employ a strong BATNA rather than allowing the whole relationship to break down.

An example of BATNA in the news

Think of the political sphere. We are all extremely well aware of the sensitivities between the EU and Russia over the Ukraine and it sovereignty. If we leave the table what are we left with, a potential military settlement. Nobody wants that, we clearly haven’t been able to reach agreement as evident in the recent news. However the EU has used it’s BATNA in how much diplomatic relations it allows to continue with Russia and how much trade still goes on.

Top Tip: Know your BATNA well and keep it with you at all times. It’s the best defence when relations are about to breakdown. 

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