What To Do When You Are Up Against A Hard Bargainer

If you are not careful, then the best hard-bargaining tactics can catch you off guard
If you are not careful, then the best hard-bargaining tactics can catch you off guard
Image Credit: Patrick Bouquet

So who will you be negotiating with during your next negotiation? Are you going to be dealing with a hard bargainer? There are some negotiators out there who seem to think that if they want to get their way in a negotiation then they are going to have to use hard-bargaining negotiation styles and negotiating techniques to make it happen. This means that they’ll have no problems resorting to using extreme demands, unethical behavior and perhaps even threats to get what they want. These are the very negotiators who don’t realize that negotiation is not a win-lose activity. However, since you’ll be dealing with them, what should you do when they start to apply their hard bargaining tactics on you?

Using Personal Insults

Wait a minute – do people really do this during a negotiation? The answer is yes and there is a very good reason for why a negotiator may start to hurl personal insults at you. It turns out that personal attacks can feed on your insecurities and make you vulnerable. By insulting you, the other side is trying to take your mind off of the negotiations and instead get you to focus on the things that you don’t feel that you do well. Don’t allow them to do this to you. Instead, take a break from the negotiations if you feel yourself getting flustered. Let the other party know that you won’t tolerate insults and other cheap ploys. With a little luck, this should bring the insults to an end.

Bluffing, Puffing, and Lying

During a negotiation, anyone can say anything. This does not mean that it is going to be true. As a negotiator, you need to take everything that the other side tells you with a grain of salt. Understand that they may be either exaggerating or misrepresenting facts in an attempt to throw you off your guard. When the other side tells you something, what you need to do is to be skeptical about any claims that seem too good to be true. It is going to be your responsibility to take the time and investigate what you have been told closely. Make sure that you check everything out because you can’t trust anything the other side tells you.

Threats And Warnings

When the other side feels that the negotiation is not going in the direction that they would like it to go, they are going to start to become desperate. When this happens it is entirely possible that they are going to resort to issuing both threats and warnings to you. When this happens you need to know how to deal with them. The first thing that you are going to have to do is make sure that you recognize when you are being threatened. Once you realize what is going on, you are going to want to do one of two different things. The first is to ignore it. A threat that causes no reaction from you is a threat that does not work. Alternatively, you can stop the negotiations and name the threat. This is always embarrassing for the other side and can cause them to withdraw the threat and then the negotiations can then move on.

Belittling Your Alternatives

When we go into a negotiation, it is our responsibility to make sure that we know what our alternatives to reaching a deal with the other side are. In the world of negotiating this is called knowing our Best Alternative To A Negotiated Agreement (BATNA). The other side is going to be aware that we have options. What they are going to want to do is to try to convince us that we really don’t have any other options – we have to strike a deal with them no matter what the terms of that deal are. The way that they’ll try to make us believe this is by spending time belittling your BATNA. When you see that this is what they are doing, don’t let them be successful. Make sure that you don’t let them shake your resolve. Understand that you do have options and a deal with the other side is only one such option.

Good Cop, Bad Cop

Negotiating is not always a one-on-one sport. The other side may have shown up with two or more negotiators. If this has happened, you need to understand that the different negotiators may have made an agreement before the negotiations started to play different roles. A classic example of this is taken from the world of police negotiations in which one of the negotiators comes across as being reasonable and someone that you can work with while the other negotiator comes across as being tough and unreasonable. You need to understand that this is all an act and the other side is working with each other. Don’t allow yourself to be taken in by such hard-bargaining tactics.

What All Of This Means For You

In the world of negotiating there are all sorts of people that we will encounter. One type of negotiator is the so-called hard-bargainer who is most comfortable using hard-bargaining techniques to get the deal that they want. You need to recognize this type of negotiator and be prepared for their negotiating techniques.

Hard bargainers may use personal insults to try to get what they want. If they do this, you need to not get flustered and let the other side know that you won’t tolerate this kind of behavior. You can’t believe everything that the other side tells you. When they say something, you will need to verify that it is correct. If the other side feels cornered, they may start issuing threats and warnings. You need to recognize them and ignore them or give them names. In every negotiation you have alternatives to reaching a deal with the other side. Don’t let the other side tell you otherwise. Finally, if you are negotiating with multiple parties, keep in mind that they may have coordinated and decided to play different roles in the negotiation.

We really can’t do anything about a hard bargainer when we encounter them. However, we can do something about the hard bargainer techniques that they use. We need to identify the technique that is being used against us and then we need to take action to make sure that it will not be successful. We can get the deal that we want from our next principled negotiation and we don’t have to let a hard bargainer determine how we get there.

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

Question For You: If a hard bargainer starts to insult you, do you think that you should stand up and leave?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

When we start a negotiation, we are filled with hope that by using our negotiation styles and negotiating techniques we’ll be able to eventually walk away with a deal. However, during every negotiation we are faced with two possible mistakes we can make. The first is that we end up walking away from a deal that we should have agreed to. The other is that we end up agreeing to a deal that we should never have agreed to. How can we avoid making both of these errors?