6 Ways To Break A Negotiation Deadlock (Plus One More)

by drjim on November 13, 2008

When Negotiations Hit A Deadlock, Special Techniques Are Needed To Move Forward

When Negotiations Hit A Deadlock, Special Techniques Are Needed To Move Forward

So how many times has this happened to you: there you are happily negotiating along and then all of a sudden *bang* you run into an immovable deadlock. Some issue or some condition that neither you nor the other side of the table seem to be able to see eye-to-eye on just brings everything to a screeching halt. Hmm, what’s a negotiator to do? All too often negotiators bump heads for awhile trying to convince the other side to change their minds and then give up when this turns out to not be possible. There has got to be a better way of handling this! It turns out that there is…

Here are six (plus one) techniques that the folks over at the Karrass institute recommend for dealing with the deadlocks that occur in negotiations:

  1. Change The Setting: The negotiations up to this point have taking place at a specific location. If you now change the setting, then all of a sudden both sides will feel like they are starting a new round of negotiations. This means that all of the old assumptions about what would or would not work are (almost) thrown out the window. This fresh perspective might be just what both sides need to go back and revisit the issue that is causing the deadlock.
  2. Change The Negotiator(s): We are all so vain that we almost never consider this possibility, but it can be a powerful option. Sometimes we run into a deadlock because one or more of the negotiators who is involved in the discussions just can’t find a different way to look at the situation. This is often the case if the negotiations have gone on for a long time. If you switch out the negotiator, then you may find that the negotiations have taken a step back as the new negotiator works to establish a relationship with the other side of the table, but this might be just what is needed to move the discussions forward.
  3. Change Levels In The Organization: Often times a deadlock is a result of the negotiating parties not having the authority needed to be able to suggest an alternative. If this is the case, then a good way to deal with the problem is to kick it up to higher powers. They may be able to quickly find areas in which they can bend and that could get the whole discussion back on track quickly.
  4. Provide Additional Information: Each side of the table must have a reason for not being willing to budge on the deadlock issue. This reason is based on the information that they currently have. Sometimes bringing the information that you have based your position on and laying it out on the table before both parties can result in a change. The other side might point out that one of your assumptions is incorrect or they may be surprised to learn a fact that they didn’t know about. Either way, this might be just what is needed to get things moving again.
  5. Go “Off The Record”: Depending on the level of rapport that you have been able to build with the other side, this could be just what is needed. When you go off the record, you indicate to the other side that you are going to have a discussion with them about negotiating strategy that once completed will not be mentioned again. This is designed to show how much you trust the other side and to see if perhaps both sides of the table are trying to reach the same end point and are just getting tripped up by a minor issue. Careful with this one, you might be tipping your hand too much or too early in the negotiations.
  6. Say “Let’s Shift Into The Both Win Mode”: Although this doesn’t really mean anything by itself, it’s a great way to communicate to the other side that you would like to find a way to create a solution that works for both sides. Just by indicating that this is what you are working towards can often be the spark that causes the other side to start to consider more possible ways around your deadlock….and I promised you one more way to break a negotiation deadlock and so here it is:
  7. Take A Break: it sounds so simple that often we overlook it, but taking a break and stepping away from the table can often be the most powerful way to break a negotiation deadlock. We all have a tendency to get caught up in a negotiation when we are in the thick of it and our ability to think of creative ways to resolve deadlocks can decrease the longer that we’ve been negotiating. Taking a break might be just what the doctor ordered to get our creative juices flowing again.

Have you ever run into a deadlock while negotiating? How did you first try to resolve it? Did this work? How was the deadlock eventually resolved (or was it)? Leave a comment and let me know what you are thinking.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Negotiation Techniques March 29, 2010 at 10:03 am

Wow! When things get tough I surely know that this would really work!

Reply

innocent May 20, 2011 at 9:01 am

tell me, is quiting the negotiation all together part of the negotiating techniques?

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Dr. Jim Anderson May 20, 2011 at 11:06 am

Innocent: yes! As a negotiator you always have the option of getting up and walking away. The other side of the table knows this and that gives you more bargaining power.

Reply

innocent June 7, 2011 at 2:47 am

Thanks Doc.

For once i thought we had destroyed a would be good relationship by quiting.

Reply

appabeLouff April 5, 2012 at 12:22 am

Right now looked the thread! Great job. Salad.

Reply

Juliet April 5, 2012 at 8:26 am

It was helpful in writing my paper on donor deadlocks. Thanks

Reply

Matthias May 14, 2017 at 10:55 pm

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information, but great topic. I must spend a while learning more or understanding more.
Thank you for excellent info I used to be looking foor this information for my mission.

Reply

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