Dealing With Deadlocks: How To Get Around An Impasse

When you have an impasse, you need to find ways to resolve it
When you have an impasse, you need to find ways to resolve it
Image Credit: Terry Robinson

It eventually happens to all of us: you are in the middle of negotiation when you realized that things have become deadlocked. There are a lot of different ways that you may have found yourself in this situation such as after both sides have used their negotiation styles and negotiating techniques to exchange a series of offers and counteroffers. With each of you stuck in your very different positions, you can’t seem to find a solution that pleases you both. What’s a negotiator to do now?

The Power Of MESOs

If you find yourself in a deadlocked situation, try something new. Instead of making just one offer at a time, instead try issuing multiple equivalent simultaneous offers, or MESOs. By presenting multiple offers at the same time, you are likely to boost the other side’s satisfaction while also increasing your chances of coming to agreement

When you are going to use an MESO, you need to fully understand the best way to introduce them into your negotiation. The first step when using the MESO approach is to determine which of the issues on the table are the most important to you. The best way to go about doing this is to create a scoring system.

When you score the issues that are being negotiated, this can be used to eliminate the issues that really don’t matter all that much to you. Based on how you have scored the issues that are being negotiated, you will then be able to rank the deals that are being discussed based on how they deal with these issues.

How To Use MESOs

Having put together your MESOs, you can then present them to the other side. Instead of telling the other side that you may value various offers equally, explain that you want him to choose the offer that’s best for him. If they reject all the offers, ask them to tell you which one they prefer. Their response will give you valuable information about how to fine-tune your next proposal.

Based on research that has been done, it has been shown that the MESOs approach succeeds because it takes both parties’ interests into account. The result of this is that it can improve each negotiators’ outcomes and satisfaction.

When a negotiator is using a MESO in a negotiation, they will need to be careful. There are three specific issues that negotiators need to be aware of. First, because MESOs contain a great deal of information about your interests, you should counterbalance such offers by anchoring your offers to your advantage. All of your offers should exceed your target price or ideal outcome to allow some wiggle room for follow-on negotiation. Second, a smart other side may try to pick the best elements of each proposal in order to create a new deal that works against you. You need to deal with such attempts by using your scoring system to come up with three new offers that respond to the other side’s priorities without sacrificing your own goals. Third, because the abundant choices offered by MESOs could be easily become overwhelming, you are going to want to avoid presenting more than three offers at a time.

What All Of This Means For You

It’s a fact of negotiating life: deadlocks do occur. As negotiators we need to understand that this is something that we have to be ready to deal with. Everyone will have dug into their position and will be unwilling to move. This is when it’s going to be time for you to get creative in order to get this principled negotiation back on track.

One of the best ways to get around a deadlock when it shows up is to present the other side with multiple equivalent simultaneous offers, or MESOs. By doing this you can present the other side with more choices which can lead to a boost in their level of satisfaction with the negotiations. Before offering a MESO, you can take the time to score the issues that are on the table so that you can determine which packages of deals will best meet your needs. When using MESOs you need to be careful. MESOs contain a lot of information about your negotiating position and so you need to be careful how you present them. The other side may try to pick from the multiple offers in order to create a new offer and you have to be careful to not overwhelm the other side with too many offers.

Deadlocks can derail a negotiation. In order to ensure that this does not happen, we need to come up with a way to get the other side to be willing to keep things moving along. One of the best ways to make this happen is to use a MESO to present the other side with a series of offers that will allow them to show you what kind of deal they are looking for. The next time a negotiation slows down, use MESOs to get things moving once again.

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

Question For You: Do you think that you should make three offers as a part of a MESO or should you make more?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Not every negotiation that we are involved in will work out for us. In fact, some of them will fail. When we think of failed negotiations, generally we picture negotiators walking away from the table in disappointment. It turns out that that’s only one type of disappointing negotiation. It turns out that there is another type of failure when it comes to negotiating. A negotiation can be considered to be a failure when both sides come to regret the deal over time as well as those deals that fall apart during implementation. As negotiators, we need to learn how to avoid creating deals that will become failures.