How To Avoid Reaching An Impasse During A Negotiation

Negotiators need to learn how to steer clear of gridlock
Negotiators need to learn how to steer clear of gridlock
Image Credit: Charles Wiriawan

The reason that we enter into a negotiation is because we want to be able to use our negotiation styles and negotiating techniques to reach a deal with the other side. The challenge that we have is that what we want and what they want may be two very different things. The whole purpose of a negotiation is for us to find a way to build bridges between our two opposing camps and find some common ground that both of us can live with. The one thing that we don’t want to have happen is for us to run into an impassethat would be a negotiation failure. What can we do to make sure that this does not happen?

Adopt Flexible Attitude Towards Money

As a negotiator one of the things that we tend to learn very quickly is that negotiations involving money, such as a mortgage foreclosure, a job termination, or a budget shortfall, are generally more competitive and challenging than those involving benefits and assets, such as a home purchase, a new job, or a budget surplus.

The challenge that we face when entering into a money related negotiation is to determine how can we avoid approaching negotiations over money with a rigid attitude? One way to prevent an impasse from showing up is to try to identify any benefits that may accompany the burdens you anticipate and encourage the other side to do the same. An example of this would be when there is less money to be spent and so both sides will need to find ways to reduce costs.

Always Be Thinking Multiple Steps Ahead

In order to be successful in the game of chess, a chess player always has to be thinking not just about the next move that they will make but also about the next two or three moves that they will make. When the other side has made and offer that does not meet your needs, you need to think multiple steps ahead before you refuse to negotiate or compromise unless the other side meets your conditions. What we need to be aware of is that firm positions and the rejections associated with them can easily lead to a protracted impasse. Instead of taking a tough stance, good negotiators take the time to educate the other side about what aspects of their offers are most palatable and think about what they might ask for in return as concessions.

Make Sure That You Always Keep Talking

The key to any successful negotiation is that both side continue to talk no matter how well or poorly the negotiations are going. Individuals and organizations sometimes refuse to negotiate in the hope that the other side will back down as the costs inflicted by an impasse mount. What’s often overlooked is that impasse damages both sides. The more time passes, the deeper both parties dig in their heels. If you do manage to get back to the negotiating table, the ill will that accumulated during the impasse will make talks all the more challenging. Make sure that this does not happen!

What All Of This Means For You

As negotiators, it’s our job to find a way to strike a deal with the other side. If this was easy to do, then anyone could do it. It’s all too easy for a principled negotiation to encounter an impasse that causes everything to grind to a halt. As negotiators we need to become aware of what can cause an impasse to occur and then take steps to make sure that we avoid them during a negotiation.

We need to make sure that we can talk about both sides of this type of topic: both costs and benefits. During a negotiation it can be easy to get bogged down in dealing with the details of the issue that is being discussed. We need to avoid allowing this to happen by always making sure that we are thinking several steps ahead. The only way that we’ll be able to reach a deal with the other side is if we keep talking with them. Although when things get tough during a negotiation one or both sides may be tempted to refuse to negotiate. Don’t let this happen and make sure that you keep on talking.

Negotiation is usually a much more promising means of resolving a conflict and ending an impasse than refusing to negotiate. When talks have reached an impasse, try building trust and goodwill by proposing that you negotiate relatively minor issues first. Using a technique like this can allow you to reach a deal that may have seemed to be out of reach because of the threat of an impasse.

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

Question For You: If you see an impasse coming in a negotiation, what steps can you take to avoid it?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

We are all human. What this means is that for some odd and unexplained reason no mater which negotiation styles or negotiating techniques we are using, we all seem to like things that come in threes. In our world it seems as though all good things come in groups of three. Think about it, your childhood was filled with three bears, three kings, three little pigs, etc. It turns out that for negotiators, things that come in groups of three can be rewarding as well.