Two Ways To Deal With Negotiators Who Can’t Make A Decision

Negotiating with people who can't make decisions can be hard work
Negotiating with people who can’t make decisions can be hard work
Image Credit: Satya Murthy

Ugg! When you find yourself in a negotiation with a person who is struggling to make a decision no matter what negotiation styles or negotiating techniques you use, you may find yourself wishing that you were anywhere else on the planet! All too often in these types of negotiations, it seems like it can take forever to reach a decision and even then, the other side often comes back and decides to change their mind. Will this negotiation never end?

It’s All About Stature

When you encounter someone in a negotiation who is unwilling to make a decision, you are going to take action to help them become more willing to make the decisions that will allow you to move towards a deal. One way that you can make this happen is to reach out to their boss.

What you are going to want to do is to tell the boss that the person with whom you are negotiating is doing a great job. Your motivation for doing this is going to be to make the person look good in the eyes of their boss. This can have some important benefits for you. With a little luck the boss will be pleased and will provide the negotiator with some more leeway because they’ve now heard what a good job they are doing for the company.

What drives this action on your part is a realization as to why the person that you are negotiating with is having problems making decisions. More often than not this has to do with their lack of self-confidence. They have an inferiority complex that is preventing them from feeling confident in any decision that they make. If you can boost their self confidence then perhaps they’ll be able to make decisions more easily and you’ll be able to reach a deal with them.

Concessions Are Something To Be Held Dear

During a normal negotiation, you need to be prepared to make concessions to the other side in order to get them to make concessions to you. When you are dealing with someone who is struggling to make decisions, you may not want to take this approach. The reason is that because they are having problems making decisions and so they won’t be able to provide you with the concessions that you are looking for.

Another tactic that we often use during a negotiation is to present the other side with a collection of alternatives. We do this in order to have them pick the alternative that best meets their needs. The problem with using this approach with a person who has difficulty making decisions is that it will only serve to further confuse and fluster them.

A much better way to handle this type of person is to only present them with with one alternative. Tell them that it’s the best alternative for both sides. Don’t weigh them down with details. Push the other side of the table to agree to the alternative that you’ve proposed. The fewer choices that you present to the other side, the better your chances of getting them to agree to your offer becomes.

What All Of This Means For You

For many negotiators, there can be nothing more frustrating than finding themselves trapped in a principled negotiation with a person who is struggling to make up their mind. Back and forth they go and you don’t seem to be making any progress in moving towards reaching a deal. When you find yourself in this type of a situation, it’s time to take action.

The first thing that you need to do is to realize that the person that you are negotiating with probably has an inferiority complex. What this means for you is that you need to make an extra effort to build them up in the eyes of their boss so that they will start to feel more free to make decisions. Secondly, you need to provide them with very few concessions. By presenting this type of negotiator with options to choose from, you’ll just make them even more reluctant to make a decision.

In the end, your ability to reach a deal with a negotiator who is reluctant to make a decision rests not on them, but rather on you. You need to take charge and show them how to make progress towards a final deal. Help them to make the decisions that they are struggling with!

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

Question For You: Do you think that you should complement the other side of the table in the presence of their boss or should that be done offline?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

“Would you just roll over and play dead for me please?” How many times have you wanted to say this to the other side of the table during a negotiation? Of course this rarely if ever happens. However, there are sometimes when something even worse happens – no matter what negotiation styles or negotiating techniques you are using, the other side just flat out becomes unreasonable. When that happens, you are going to have to get tough.