2 Tips For Resolving Deadlocks When The Other Side Just Isn’t Listening To You

by drjim on April 5, 2013

It's all too easy to get trapped in a deadlock situation that you can't get out of…

It’s all too easy to get trapped in a deadlock situation that you can’t get out of…
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Just exactly who are these negotiations being conducted with? If I asked you this question, you’d probably tell me that you are negotiating with the other side of the table. You’d be both right and wrong. The negotiation process is much more complicated and you need to understand why if you are going to reach a deal on what is being negotiated.

Who’s On The Other Side Of The Table?

When you are sitting at the negotiating table and are spending your time staring at the person who is on the other side of the table and trying to see though all of their different negotiation styles and negotiating techniques, it can be all too easy to start to view them as being the only person that you are negotiating with. In most cases, the reality is actually quite different.

Yes, the person that you are negotiating with does bring their own set of views, expectations, and needs to the table. However, they are probably also representing many other people in their organization. According to the negotiation definition this means that the person that you are negotiating with may actually have a set of conflicting goals that they are responsible for finding a way to sort through in order to reach a deal with you.

The result of all of these differing opinions can be that the negotiations that you are investing so much time, energy, and effort into just might end up being deadlocked. This is the last thing that you want to have happen, so it’s going to be up to you to take steps to make sure that you prevent yourself from ending up in this situation.

Is It Time To Go Around The Other Side?

Let’s face it, sometimes the other side of the table just isn’t getting it. There can be a lot of different reasons for this, but all too often it comes down to the simple fact that they see things one way, and nothing that you say to them is going to change this.

When this happens you may be staring a deadlock situation in the face.. You are going to have to take action in order to prevent things from grinding to a halt.

This may be one of those rare cases where bypassing the other side of the table and having a talk with their boss may be the right thing to do. I have found that when things have come to a standstill with the other side of the table, their bosses have been much more willing to talk with me. The reason for this is often because the senior management still wants a deal to happen – they’ve not lost sight of the final goal

One final point that you might want to take into consideration is how you go about handling information related to the negotiations when you reach a deadlock. Keeping in mind that the negotiations have come to a standstill and may not be able to be restarted, you may want to reconsider providing additional information to the other side of the table.

The thinking here is that what you’ve already provided them with has not done the trick. They are not seeing things in a way that is going to allow you to reach a deal with them. Simply providing them with additional information is only going to make you believe that you’ve gotten through to them (can’t they read what you’ve provided them with?) while they probably won’t get any more out of it. In this situation, stop providing the other side with more information on the deal that is being negotiated until the deadlock situation is resolved.

What All Of This Means For You

In order to successfully reach a deal with the other side of the table, you are going to have to make sure that you fully understand just exactly who the other side of the table is negotiating for. It may not just be themselves.

When you run into situation where it is starting to look like a deadlock may be occurring, consider what your alternatives are. You may want to go have a talk with the other side’s management in order to see if you can find a solution to your problems. At the same time you may want to hold off on providing the other side with more information about the deal that is being negotiated – they may not be able to process it and you’ll just become more frustrated with them for not seeing things your way.

This all may seem like a lot of extra effort to you – can’t you just focus on the deal that you’re trying to put together with the other side? The answer is that, as with so many other things in life, it’s a bit more complicated than it looks. Take the time to help the other side conduct a principled negotiation and find a way to agree to your proposal and you’ll close more deals and you’ll close them quicker.

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

Question For You: At what point in the negotiations do you think that you might have to step in and help the other side meet the needs of their various people that they may be negotiating for?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Have you ever heard the phrase “it’s not over until it’s over”? I’m not sure where this phrase comes from, but it sure could be applied to a number of the negotiations that I’ve been involved in. These never-ending negotiations never seemed to want to close. What’s a negotiator to do?

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

margaret klosowicz October 1, 2014 at 3:16 pm

what happens when you are faced with negotiating with the “big boss” and you find your negotiating tools are not adequate enough and after the meeting you realize your mistakes– would it be effective to ask for a second meeting with a representative of the boss, in order to have a “second crack” at getting your needs met. What do you suggest?


drjim October 2, 2014 at 5:29 pm

Margaret: it really comes down to determining what the outcome of that first meeting was. Did you get the deal that you wanted? If so, then no follow up is required. If you didn’t reach a deal with them, then yes — going back for a second shot at it makes sense. Make sure that you confirm that whomever you meet with has the authority to approve and implement any deal that you reach with them. You would hate to waste your time with the wrong person!


margaret klosowicz October 1, 2014 at 3:18 pm

what about a second meeting to negotiate when you realize the meeting with the big boss was something you were not prepared for –the second meeting would be with a representative of the boss, and would that work? …what do you suggest as a remedy for the failed meeting?


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