How Negotiators Can Deal With Change

by drjim on April 13, 2018

When something changes in a negotiation, you still need to close a deal

When something changes in a negotiation, you still need to close a deal
Image Credit: Sebastien Wiertz

I often like to think about a negotiation as being very similar to being the pilot of an airplane. In order to keep the airplane flying, or for that matter to have any hope of landing it, you’ve got a lot of work to do. You have to make sure that the plane is going fast enough to stay up, you have to adjust the wings to go up or down, and you have to fiddle with the tail if you want the plane to turn. All of these things have to be done at the same time. If anything changes, then you are going to have to make a number of adjustments to keep the plane on course. It turns out that the same things happen in a negotiation.

It’s Always Best To Be There When Change Happens

As we engage in a negotiation, there is always the chance that something is going to change. We may have been able use our negotiation styles and negotiating techniques to reach an agreement with the other side in regards to some aspect of the negotiation; however, now something that is out of our control has caused things to change. Clearly this is not going to be a good thing. Once we become aware that something has changed, we are now obligated to tell the other side about it. How we go about doing this may have a big impact on how the rest of the negotiations goes.

One of your biggest questions that you’ll have to answer is just how big of a deal is this negotiation – is it going to impact your firm. If the answer is no, this is just one of many smaller deals that your firm is working on then you’ve got a number of options in how you can communicate changes. You can, of course, send them an announcement that lets them know that a change has occurred. This is the official way to notify them. However, you may want to give them a call before the announcement arrives just so that they won’t be surprised. For your larger and more significant deals, you are going to want to go meet with the other side face-to-face in order to let them know that things have changed.

It’s Ok If The Other Side Is Angry

It is not under your control how the other side is going to react to the information that you are providing them with about the change that will be impacting the negotiations. If this was a perfect world, they would accept the information, thank you for it, and the negotiations would then continue. As we all know, we don’t live in a perfect world and so the odds are that this is not going to happen.

Instead, there is a very good chance that the other side is going to get upset. Just exactly how upset they are going to become is unclear. Their reaction can range from being annoyed, to being upset, to being flat out angry. You are going to have to expect this and just deal with it. You need to understand that the change is going to have an impact on how they hope to accomplish things and so this change is a setback for them. You need to allow them to vent their emotions and allow them to calm back down before the negotiating can start again.

Agree With The Other Side

One of most important things that you need to realize when you are delivering information on a change in a negotiation to the other side is that you are not going to want to debate with them about this change. If you do that, then they may be left with the impression that this change is somehow open to negotiation. This is not an impression that you are going to want to leave them with.

What you do want to do is to let the other side know that you understand just how much of an inconvenience this change is for them. You’d also like to let them know that if it was somehow up to you, you’d try to make the change not happen but that it’s not up to you. You need to keep in mind that you never want to tell the other side that the change is “… no big deal.” The answer is that yes, it may be a big deal to them. You want the other side to accept the change as being the new way that the world is going to be.

What All Of This Means For You

The world that we all live in is filled with change. What this means for us as negotiators is that during a principled negotiation some aspect of the negotiation, perhaps something that we’ve already been able to come to an agreement with the other side regarding, may change. If this happens, then it will quickly become our responsibility to inform the other side that a change has happened.

Letting the other side know that a change has happened is our responsibility. How we go about doing this can have a big impact on the rest of the negotiations. If the deal that we are working on is small, then sending a notification of the change and making a phone call to let them know about it should do the trick. If the deal that we are working on is bigger or more important, then a face-to-face meeting is called for. We need to understand that the other side is not going to be happy to receive the information about the change. We are going to have to allow them to have time to vent how they feel and let them calm down before the negotiations can continue. You are going to have to make sure that you let the other side know that you agree with them – no change is good and this change is going to complicate their lives.

Negotiating is a tough job. When something changes on us and we find ourselves having to let the other side know about the change, then all of sudden a tough job just got even tougher. However, this is our responsibility and we need to understand how to go about doing it correctly. If we take the time to clearly communicate the changes to the other side and allow them time to get used to what has changed, then we have a good chance of being able to continue our negotiations.

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

Question For You: If the other side gets so angry about the change that they leave, what should you do?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

When we are involved in a negotiation, we make proposals to the other side of the table. If they like our proposal, then they’ll agree to it and we can strike a deal with them. However, if they don’t like our proposal, then we’re going to have to spend some time in discussions with them using our negotiation styles and negotiating techniques to see if both sides can create a proposal that they can live with. What if I could show you a way that would convince the other side to say “yes” to your proposal? It sure seems like this would speed things up doesn’t it…?

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