How To Avoid Impasses in Negotiations

We all want to find ways to avoid negotiation failure
We all want to find ways to avoid negotiation failure
Image Credit: F. D. Richards

When we enter into a negotiation, we are hopeful that we’ll be able to find a way to reach a deal with the other side. However, as we all know, there is always the possibility that we are going to run into problems. The way that we see things and the way that the other side sees things may be different. If this is the case, then there is the very real possibility that we are going to encounter an impasse. If this happens then we may not be able to reach a deal with the other side. How can we prevent this from happening?

Dealing With Impasses: Create A Gain Frame

Negotiations over issues such as costs and losses, items that are found in a mortgage foreclosure, budget shortfall, or a job termination are generally more competitive and challenging than those involving benefits and assets, such as a home purchase, a budget surplus or a new job. What negotiators need to understand is how they can avoid approaching negotiations over losses with a rigid attitude? The goal is to try to identify any benefits that may accompany the burdens that you can anticipate. At the same time you will want to encourage the other side to do the same.

Dealing With Impasses: Think Multiple Steps Ahead

During a negotiation, when you are faced with someone’s unappealing offer or position, you need to think multiple steps ahead before you refuse to negotiate or compromise unless the other side meets your conditions. If you are not careful, firm positions and rejections 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 for concessions.

Dealing With Impasses: Keep Talking

It’s possible that individuals and organizations may 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 when this tactic is tried is that impasse damages both sides. The more time passes, the deeper both sides dig in their heels. If somehow you do manage to get back to the negotiating table, the ill will that accumulated during the impasse will make your talks all the more challenging and a deal that much harder to reach.

What All Of This Means For You

The reason that we enter into a negotiation is because we want to be able to reach a deal with the other side. However, negotiations can be tricky beasts. If we are not careful, it can be easy for our negotiation to run aground and we may end up mired in a conflict that prevents us from reaching a deal. Our goal as negotiators is to be able to understand how impasses can occur and what we can do to avoid them.

We all understand that engaging in a negotiation is usually a much more promising means of resolving a conflict and ending an impasse than refusing to negotiate with the other side. However if during a negotiation our talks have reached an impasse, we need to try building trust and goodwill by proposing that we negotiate relatively minor issues first. Dealing with impasses is the best way to get around them.

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

Question For You: If you encounter an impasse, do you think that you should take a break in the negotaitons?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Let’s face it – no matter how highly we may think of ourselves, none of us are perfect. What this means is that every time that we enter into a negotiation, we arrive with our own set of personal cognitive biases. We have experience with this negotiating stuff and so it’s natural that we may tend to rely on our intuition when it comes time to make decisions. There is no question that this may be the right thing to do sometimes; however, it’s the wrong thing to do at other times. How can we limit our use of cognitive bias during our next negotiation?