How Committed Is The Other Side To This Negotiation?

During a negotiation, you'll have to determine how committed the other side is
During a negotiation, you’ll have to determine how committed the other side is
Image Credit: Joshy George

Generally speaking, when we enter into a negotiation we have a reason for doing so. We are either seeking a deal for ourselves or we are operating at the request of someone else. However, there is a key question that as negotiators we need to find an answer to in each negotiation: just exactly how committed to resolving this negotiation is the other side?

Just Exactly Who Are You Negotiating With?

One of the things that we need to realize as negotiators is that the other side of the table may not be the person who will be benefiting from the deal that we agree to. They may simply be a purchasing agent or an outsider who has been brought in to use various negotiation styles and negotiating techniques to conduct the negotiations for the other side. What can happen in these cases is that the other negotiator focuses exclusively on price without realizing that by getting a cheaper product, they may end up costing their company more money in the end.

No matter who you are negotiating with, you are going to have to be able to show them that you mean business. What you will need to do is to show them a blatant power tactic that is simply designed to allow you to reinforce the believability of what you have been telling them and show them that you really mean what you are saying.

A great example of how to do this comes when a negotiator tells the other side that they will not retreat, back down or compromise. To drive this point home, what they can do is burn their bridges behind them. In effect, the negotiator has placed themselves in a situation where it is no longer possible for them to back away from the position that they have taken. What you are trying to do here is to alter the other side’s expectations by limiting your own options.

The Role Of Threats In A Negotiation

When we are negotiating, we need to take a moment and think about how our actions are going to be viewed by the other side. If we take a hard position in order to show them that we really do mean business, there is a very good chance that the other side is going to see this as a threat. What we need to realize is that this will have a negative impact on our negotiating environment and will turn the other side from a possible partner, into an adversary.

Note that there will be times that the other side makes threats to you. When this happens, your best course of action is to not make any changes to your demeanor. Instead, let it roll off of your back and pretend like what they said really didn’t mean anything to you. This will provide you with more options in how you react to their threat including being able to ask them “I’m sorry, what did you say?”

By asking questions like this, you are going to make the other side have to repeat their threat to you. This will probably have the effect of making them feel foolish. Continue to ignore their threat and eventually the other side will probably let it go. If they don’t, then it’s going to be up to you to do some investigation as to why they are making the threats. If even this fails to get them to back off of their threats, then you always have the option of informing them that you just don’t have the authority to comply with their request: “Sorry, but I’m simply not going to be able to comply with that request.”

What All Of This Means For You

Just because we want to get a deal or resolve some issues through a principled negotiation does not mean that this is what the other side of the table wants to accomplish also. As negotiators, one of the most important things that we need to do during a negotiation is to investigate just how committed the other side is to resolving the issues that make up this negotiation?

One of the first things that you are going to have to establish as your next negotiation starts is the role that the person on the other side of the table is playing. Will they directly benefit from any agreement that they are able to reach with you or are they just negotiating on behalf of someone else? In order make sure that they understand that you mean business, you may end up burning your bridges behind you. This means that there can be no going back. If you do this, the other side may feel threatened and any sense of cooperation may vanish. If they retaliate by threating you, you need to not show any reaction. Ask them to repeat themselves and probe for why they are now making threats. Remember that you can always inform them that you are not able to comply with their threat.

Before any of us can hope to get what we want to get out of our next negotiation, we are going to have to take the time to find out just exactly how committed the other side is to reaching a deal with us. During a negotiation we may need to put on a strong show to convince the other side that we really mean what we’re saying. Use these suggestions to make sure that you are able to deal with any threats that the other side ends up making.

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

Question For You: If the other side starts to threaten you, do you think that you should call for a break in the negotiations?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

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?