When we enter a negotiation we generally have one goal in mind: we want to reach a deal with the other side. It is our assumption that the other side of the table has the same goal in mind. However, there will be situations in which this may not be the case. As a negotiator, we need to understand that the other side may at times be negotiating in bad faith. We have to be able to both realize this, and know how best to deal with the situation.
When The Other Side Does Not Want A Deal
As negotiators we can forget that not everyone at the bargaining table wants to close a deal and they may be bargaining in bad faith no matter what negotiation styles or negotiating techniques we are using. If you don’t believe me then take just a moment and consider the following negotiations:
Let’s say that a competitor approaches you about a potential partnership. After a series of meetings that seemed to you to be promising, however, the other side stops returning your calls. You are left with the nagging suspicion that their only goal was to glean privileged information about your business and use it to gain an advantage in your industry.
Or how about this situation: a student who has just finished graduate school is negotiating for their dream job. To try to drive up the salary that’s been offered, they negotiate an offer from another employer – for whom they has zero interest in working – to use as a bargaining chip.
Or even: to improve its global reputation, a national government makes significant but nonbinding financial commitments in a multilateral environmental negotiation, secure in the knowledge that its legislature back home will vote down the agreement and let it off the hook.
In each of these negotiating instances, a party entered into a negotiation, bargaining in bad faith, with no intention of closing a deal or following through on negotiated commitments. Let us agree that such behavior is inconsiderate at best, immoral and even potentially illegal at worst. Yet, unfortunately, many of us likely have dealt with such negotiators or even initiated such negotiations ourselves (come on, admit it).
Bad Faith Negotiations
In a new study, researchers took a closer look bargaining in bad faith, at what they term “false negotiations” – those times when a party engages in a negotiation process with no desire to reach agreement (or with no intention of implementing any agreement reached). False negotiators believe that their best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA) is better than any offer you could possibly make. Yet they also believe that in order to sustain or improve their BATNA, they must go through the motions of negotiating with you. Maybe they hope to gain an offer from you that they can then use as leverage to get a better deal elsewhere.
Perhaps these negotiators hope to get information from you to use to their advantage (and at your expense), as in the case of a competitor who negotiates to gain inside information about your company. Pressure from constituents or observers could also lead negotiators to enter into a negotiation under false pretenses. Clearly, for the party being used, a false negotiation is a waste of their time and money. To make matters worse, false negotiators sometimes have incentives to drag a negotiation on for as long as possible – for instance, if they would take heat for walking away or are waiting for a “better” counterpart to come along.
Unfortunately, a false negotiation can be very difficult to distinguish from a real negotiation. However, drawing on the results of research, a group of clues have been identified that may help you identify a counterpart who doesn’t want to get to yes. False negotiators’ bargaining behavior differs from that of sincere negotiators in distinct ways. First, false negotiators respond more slowly to their counterparts, dragging out the negotiation process. False negotiators also delay putting a first offer on the table, typically waiting until their counterpart explicitly asked them to do so. In addition, false negotiators tend to make fewer relevant statements than the sincere negotiators. Rather than staying on task, false negotiators are more likely to ramble about issues and concerns unrelated to the negotiation. As compared with sincere negotiators, false negotiators are were more likely to mention constraints, such as accountability to their superiors, that they claimed were limiting their ability to reach agreement. At the same time, false negotiators try to counterbalance this behavior with explicit promises to cooperate.
What All Of This Means For You
The goal of any principled negotiation is for both sides to find a way to reach an agreement. As negotiators, when we enter into a negotiation it is our belief that the other side wants a deal just as much as we do. However, there may be times when this is not the case. The other side may not be committed to reaching a deal with us – they are just going through the motions. We need to understand why this can happen and what we can do when it does happen.
There can be many different situations in which a party enters into a negotiation, bargaining in bad faith, with no intention of closing a deal or following through on negotiated commitments. What we need to realize is that bad faith negotiators believe that their best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA) is better than any offer you could possibly make. Additionally, false negotiators sometimes have incentives to drag a negotiation on for as long as possible. The good news is that there are number of clues that we can use to detect when the other side is negotiating in bad faith. Using this information, we can take steps to minimize the amount of time that we waste with them.
There is always the chance the other side really does not want to reach a deal with you. As negotiators this is something that we need to always keep in mind. We need to detect when it starts to look like a deal will never be possible. Once we have come to this conclusion, it’s in our own best interests to end the negotiations and spend our time doing more useful things.
– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Negotiating Skills™
Question For You: Do you think that you can change the other side’s mind and get them to want to reach a deal with you?
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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time
During a negotiation, our goal is always to find ways to use our negotiation styles and negotiating techniques to move the other side closer to reaching a deal with us. There are a lot of different ways that we can go about doing this. One of the biggest questions that we are always facing during a negotiation is just exactly what we should reveal to the other side in order to move things along. We all know our limits and what would cause us to walk away from a negotiation is a big deal. Should we ever let the other side know what our limits are?