Counterstrike: 5 Ways Negotiators Can Deal With Threats During A Negotiation

When you are threatened during a negotiation, you need to fight back
When you are threatened during a negotiation, you need to fight back

There you are in your next sales negotiation and everything is flying along nicely. All of a sudden, wham! The other side goes and suddenly threatens you with something if you don’t do or agree to one of their demands. Oh, oh – that “Dummy’s Guide To Negotiating” book that you read last month didn’t cover this situation. What’s a negotiator to do now?

The Danger Of Using Threats During A Negotiation

I’m pretty sure that we’ve talked about it before, but it probably can’t hurt to mention it one more time. Threats can be a powerful part of any negotiator’s negotiation styles or negotiating techniques; however, threats are difficult to use correctly and can easily cause a great deal of damage. No matter what’s being negotiated, the other side will probably threaten you at some time. How should you deal with these threats?

5 Ways That You Can Deal With A Threat During A Negotiation

You can’t stop the other side of the table from using threats against you during your next negotiation process; however, you can be prepared when they do. What you need to have ready are the following 5 threat handling techniques:


  • Will They Shoot Themselves?: I can’t tell you how many spy movies that I’ve seen where the hero wins in the end because the bad guy tries to shoot him with a gun that really fires backwards. When you are threatened, you need to take a close look at the threat and determine if the other side follows through on the threat if they would end up harming themselves as much as they would harm you.



  • Hold Your Position: Sure the other side can threaten you, but do you really have the stronger position? Do you have a product or a service that they truly need and can’t get anywhere else? If so, their threats may be meaningless and you need to not budge.



  • Time For A History Lesson: If the other side of the table is threatening you during a negotiation, then it’s probably not the first time that they’ve used this negotiating tactic. That means that they’ve got a history. You need to do some research and check with people that have negotiated with them in the past – do they follow through on their threats? If not, then you may be able to disregard their threats.



  • Tell Their Boss: Using threats during a negotiation can go against the principled negotiation standards of the organization that the other side works for. Simply by informing the other side’s boss that threats against you are being made may be enough to get the other side in trouble and make the threats go away.



  • Tell A Story: One of the most effective ways to get a point across is to tell a story. We all know that threats can backfire and may have unintended consequences. If you take the time to tell the other side a story about threats going bad after they’ve made a threat, you may be able to get them to take the threat back.


What All Of This Means For You

Negotiations always seem to somehow include threats, either explicit or implied. The trick is not to try to avoid them, because you can’t, but rather to understand how to deal with them when they show up.

Skilled negotiators know that that every threat has the ability to blow up and harm both sides of the table. That’s why you have to take the time to determine who might be hurt and by how much. You also have to make sure that the other side is aware of the damage that the threat that they’ve made may cause.

During a negotiation, when you’ve been threatened, it’s not the end of the game – threats are almost part of the negotiation definition. As a negotiator, you need to learn to roll with the threat and evaluate what it really means to you. Once you understand the scope of the threat, you’ll be able to take the appropriate actions that will bring the other side of the table back to the negotiations and will get you once again moving towards reaching a deal.

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

Question For You: When the other side makes a threat, do you think that you should call for a break in the negotiations in order to show how serious you think that this is?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

When it comes to sitting around the negotiating table, we’re all equal, right? In a perfect world, the answer would be yes. We don’t live in a perfect world and so the answer is a very solid “no”. So what does this mean for us – do some negotiators deserve to get more?