Defensive Negotiation Strategies That Every Negotiator Needs To Know

When you are on the defensive, you’ll need strategies to get the job done
When you are on the defensive, you’ll need strategies to get the job done
Image Credit: Carine06

If this was a perfect world, then every time that you went into a negotiation you would be facing someone who was doing this for the first time. They would be unsure of themselves and they would end up making all sorts of very basic mistakes. However, it’s not a perfect world and more often than not you are going to find yourself sitting across the table from a skilled negotiator who is wise to all of your negotiation styles and negotiating techniques. When this happens, you are going to have to make sure that you have the defensive negotiation strategies that you’ll need in order to get the job done.

You Can’t Prepare Enough

You do of course realize that I should not be having to tell you this. Negotiators often don’t prepare enough for a negotiation for a variety of reason. One is because they simply don’t carve out the time that is required before the negotiation in order to get ready for the negotiation. Another is because they decide that they already know everything that they’ll need for this negotiation and so there is no reason for them to take the time to prepare. Both of these approaches are wrong.

As a negotiator, you need to make sure that you find the time to prepare for your next negotiation systematically and thoroughly. You can make this happen by rigorously analyzing your best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA); evaluating the zone of possible agreement (ZOPA); and investigating all the issues at stake. You want to arrive at the negotiation as a well-prepared negotiator who is unlikely to accept a subpar offer simply because of how it is framed by the other side.

Information Is Not Influence

Guess what? You are involved in a negotiation and what this means is that perhaps not everything that the other side says may be 100% true. However, I don’t have to tell you this because there is a good chance that during the negotiation everything that you say to the other side may also not be 100% true. As a negotiator, it’s going to be your job to pick through what the other side is telling you and attempt to determine fact from fiction.

The other side’s statements (just like your own) will be one part information, one part influence. Your task as a negotiator is to separate information from influence before you react. When someone makes an argument or request that seems compelling, ask yourself some important questions such as these:

  1. If anyone else had made this proposal, would I be willing to agree to it?
  2. Would I have agreed to this proposal yesterday, or even an hour ago?
  3. Can I defend my compliance to my coworkers and my boss?

Mitigate The Impact Of Influence Strategies

When the other side is trying to convince you to do something, this is called using an influence strategy. What they are going to do is to make a request of you using words that make it sound as attractive as possible. Your job as a negotiator is going to be to take the time pick apart what they have asked and decide if this is really a deal that you want to agree to. As an example of this, consider if the other side offers you several small payments, you would need to think about whether the proposal would be as attractive if you received one lump sum.

What All Of This Means For You

As a negotiator, you always have to be prepared for who you are going to be meeting in your next principled negotiation. Sure, you might get lucky and the person that you’ll be negotiating with will be a first timer. However, it is more likely that you’ll be meeting up with an experienced negotiator. This means that you are going to have to go into the negotiation with a set of defensive negotiation strategies that you can use if push comes to shove.

It should go without saying but it can never hurt to repeat it again: a negotiator always needs to take the time to prepare for his or her next negotiation. Don’t think that you know it all, spend the time getting ready so that you won’t get surprised half way through the negotiation. We can’t always trust what the other side may be telling us. This means that as negotiators we have to be willing to take time to separate information from influence. Take the time to ask yourself questions in order to determine how valid what the other side is saying is. When the other side makes a request of you, in your mind rephrase it. Strip out their nice words and just take a look at the actual request. Is this something that you really want to agree to?

In the world of sports they say that the best offense is a good defense. I believe that the same can be said of the world of negotiating. You need to make sure that you are prepared to defend you positions when you go into the negotiation. Bring these three defensive strategies along with you and you’ll be ready no matter what the other side decides to throw at you.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Negotiating Skills™

Question For You: How much time do you think that a negotiator should allocate in order to fully prepare for a negotiation?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Let’s face it – negotiating is not an easy thing to do. There is all of the preparation that goes into it, there is the effort of actually doing it using all of our negotiation styles and negotiating techniques, and then, with a little luck, there will be a deal that both sides will agree to when it’s all over. Unfortunately it can be all too easy for us to do one of the two things that we really should not do: reach a deal with the other side when we really should not or walk away from a deal that we should have agreed to. In order to prevent this from occurring we need to take the time to prepare for each negotiation and, as a part of doing this, take the time to analyze the zone of possible agreement (ZOPA) for this negotiation.