During A Negotiation, Why Is It So Hard To Get The Other Side To Change Their Mind?

Nobody likes change especially during a negotiation
Nobody likes change especially during a negotiation
Image Credit: lpk 90901

As negotiators, it is our goal to get the other side of the table to do something for us. In order to make this happen, when we sit down at the negotiating table we’ll try to use both rational arguments and common sense to get them to see things our way. However, all too often these efforts just end up being both futile and frustrating. What’s a negotiator to do?

The Irrational Other Side

Any reasonable person would expect that if we use reasoning coupled with a bit of logic, we should be able to convince the other side to make the change that we’d like them to make no matter what negotiation styles or negotiating techniques are used during the negotiations. However, all too often this is not the case. If you talk with experienced negotiators and ask them why this is you’ll generally always get the same answer. They’ll tell you that the reason that your approach is not working is because more often than not the other side of the table is both unreasonable and irrational.

People almost universally share the same fear. We are afraid of change. Whenever we are presented with something that is novel or different (like during a negotiation), we tend to reject it out of hand. More often than not what will happen is that the other side will present reasons to not make any changes. These types of justifications will often be used to support the position that the other side wants to take, not really to shed any light on the negotiations themselves.

The other type of irrationality that can show up in a negotiation comes when we find ourselves negotiating with people who have unrealistic expectations for what they will be able to get out of the negotiation. When we find ourselves in a situation like this, we now have an added responsibility. We have to work with the other side in order to help them to better understand what the consequences of their behavior is going to turn out to be. As you do this, you are going to have to make sure that you are aware of the barriers that they have constructed that are preventing them from being willing to either adapt or change.

What Is Blocking Change?

The reason that we negotiate is because we want to cause a change in the other side. The way that we can make this happen is by communicating with them why they should change. However, this does not always work out. We can run into barriers as we present our suggested changes to them. These barriers are what can cause the other side to be hesitant to change their position from a “no” to a “yes”. As negotiators we’re going to encounter reluctance, what we want to be able to do is to transform this into acceptance.

One of the reasons that the other side may be resistant to change is because they have a fondness what they know best. Yes, they may be willing to admit that the current situation that they now find themselves in has its own set of problems; however, they may feel as though they can live with those problems and they have become familiar with the way that things are. Known routines and properties promote familiarity.

None of us, including the other side of the table, likes change. What this means is that when we present the other side with our proposal for them to make changes, they view it with anxiety. Most of us are fairly pragmatic and we all tend to be conservative when it comes to making changes in our lives. We really don’t like to take risks. That’s why when the other side is considering the changes that you are proposing they will view them as being both uncertain and unfamiliar. Taken together, this makes your proposal appear to be a high-stakes hazard to them.

What All Of This Means For You

As we sit down to negotiate with the other side of the table, we have some basic assumptions about them. We believe that if we present them with logical reasons why they should agree to our proposals, they’ll see the wisdom of our ways and accept our proposal. However, all too often things don’t turn out this way.

From our perspective, the other side is being unreasonable and irrational. One of the key reasons that we often get push back on our ideas is because nobody likes change. Another reason that our ideas can be rejected is because the other side has shown up with unrealistic expectations. There can be a number of different things that are blocking their acceptance of our proposed changes. A key issue may be the simple fact that the other side likes things the way that they are – it’s comfortable. Another reason is that our proposed changes cause them anxiety and that’s something that they want to avoid.

Knowing that we live in a world where not everyone is going to see things the same way that we do is critical to our ability to be successful in a principled negotiation. Understanding why they are resisting our ideas is critical to our ability to find way to overcome the barriers that they have put up. Take the time to understand what the other side is thinking and you’ll have a better chance of being able to reach a deal with them.

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

Question For You: What can you do to convince the other side that the changes that you are proposing are really not all that scary?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Every time that we start a negotiation, we have the same hope: that we’ll be able to use our negotiation styles and negotiating techniques to quickly and efficiently get to the end of the negation and walk away with a deal that we can be proud of. However, all too often it seems like sometimes there are roadblocks that show up almost out of nowhere. For some odd and strange reason, the other side just does not want to change their position. What’s a negotiator to do?