How To Break A Deadlock

by drjim on September 12, 2014

Every deadlock can be broken – it just takes a little bit of effort

Every deadlock can be broken – it just takes a little bit of effort
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All too often in a negotiation no matter what negotiation styles or negotiating techniques you are using, when we encounter a deadlock we may want to just give up. After all, a deadlock sure looks like something that is going to prevent both sides from ever being able to successfully reach a deal. However, I’ve got some good news for you. It turns out that every deadlock can be broken; you just need to know how to go about doing it…

Go Away And Come Back

Deadlocks happen. It’s how you deal with them that really matters. When you are faced with a deadlock, one of the easiest things to do is to sidestep the issue. Agree with the other side of the table that the issue that is causing the deadlock is a big issue. Then suggest that both of you table that issue and instead focus on other issues.

By doing this you can prevent the negotiations from grinding to a halt. Instead, you’ll be able to continue to make progress on the other issues. Generally the other side will be willing to go along with this strategy.

The goal here is to eventually come back to the issue that was causing the deadlock. The hope is that because you’ve been able to make progress on the other issues and because some time has passed, what was a big deal is no longer such a big deal. With a little luck, the hostility surrounding this deadlock causing issue will have evaporated.

Use Concessions

A deadlock will cause a negotiation to grind to a halt. What you need to do in order to break the deadlock is to find a way to get the negotiations moving once again.

A great way to make this happen is to make some small concessions to the other side. Give in on some issues that you really don’t care about. Once you’ve done this, ask them to make some concessions to you.

This back and forth of concessions is how you can get things rolling once again. With just a bit of momentum, you may be able to get up enough speed to be able to find your way around the issue that caused the deadlock.

Go “Off The Record”

A deadlock happens when you and the other side of the table can’t come to an agreement on an issue. A lot of what has caused the deadlock to occur has to do with the personalities that are involved.

One way to break this deadlock is for you to go “off the record” and reach out to people who have not been involved in the negotiations. Since they were not involved in the discussions that led up to the deadlock, they may be able to show you a way around the deadlock.

What All Of This Means For You

To any negotiator, a deadlock can be a scary thing. It sure looks like the negotiations are going to end without you being able to reach a deal with the other side of the table. However, it turns out that every deadlock can be broken.

In order to break a deadlock, a good first step is to try to sidestep the deadlock causing issue. Go on and deal with other issues and then come back to deal with the “big” issue. You can also make a series of small concessions to the other side and get them to do the same. Once things have started to move again, a deal may now be in sight. Finally, you can always go “off the record” and appeal for help from people at higher levels in both organizations.

Don’t let a deadlock halt your next principled negotiation. Instead, by taking the time to understand the people who are involved in the negotiations you will be able to find a way to break the deadlock. Get good at doing this and every negotiation that you are involved in will be able to end in you reaching a deal with the other side.

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

Question For You: When a deadlock is reached, should you let the other side make the first move to try to break it?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

What does it take to get your way in the next negotiation that you are involved in? The ability to read the mind of the other side of the table would be nice, but if that’s not possible for most of us. What else do we have to work with? The answer to this question doesn’t have anything to do with negotiation styles or negotiating techniques. It turns out that human nature is a very powerful force and if you understand how it works, then your chances of being successful in your next negotiation increase significantly.

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