Defensive Negotiation Strategies That Negotiators Need To Know

A negotiator needs to know how to deal with skilled persuaders
A negotiator needs to know how to deal with skilled persuaders
Image Credit: Graham C99

When you sit down to a negotiation, who is sitting across the table from you? In most cases you are going to be looking at a talented negotiator who is also a skilled persuader. Just like you have a collection of negotiation styles and negotiating techniques that you use during a negotiation, so do they. When they start to apply their tactics against you, how are you expected to react? Looks like you are going to need some defensive negotiation strategies.

You’ve Got To Prepare

I hope that it goes without saying that before starting any negotiation, you really do need to take the time to prepare for the negotiation. However, where I see a lot of negotiators fumbling is when it comes to trying to answer the question about how to prepare for a negotiation. Your preparation has to be both systematic and rigorous. You’re not going to want to leave any rock unturned. One of the most important areas that you’re going to have to spend time studying will be your BATNA: best alternative to a negotiated settlement. If things don’t go right during the negotiations, then what will you do?

Your preparation also needs to include trying to uncover the zones of possible agreement between you and the other side. Your investigations will need to cover each of the issues that are going to be brought up at the negotiating table. The better prepared you are for a negotiation, the less the possibility that you are going to end up accepting an offer that is no good just because the other side was able to present it in a way that made it look attractive.

Information and Influence Are Two Separate Things

A fairly common trick in the world of negotiating is to use someone that we will respect as our counterpart in a negotiation. The reason that the other side will do this is because then whenever the other side says something, we are going to tend to believe them no matter what they are saying. Your job as a negotiator is to realize this. You then have to separate everything that the other side says into two parts. One part is information and that is a good thing, the other part is influence, and that is not such a good thing. This separation needs to occur before you react to what they are telling you.

In order to be able to successfully separate what you are being told, when the other side makes a proposal you are going to have to ask yourself some questions. The first question is if someone else was making the proposal to you, would you be willing to agree to it? Next you are going to have to ask yourself if the proposal had been made in the past, an hour or a day earlier, would you have agreed to it then? Finally, you need to ask yourself if you agree to what is being proposed then will you be able to justify your agreement to your boss and coworkers?

Always Rephrase An Offer

When the other side makes a proposal to you, they will always phrase it in a certain way. Your responsibility as a negotiator will be to take what they have told you and rephrase it. The reason that you are going to want to do this is because the words that they’ve used to wrap up their proposal may be hiding something that you are going to want to uncover before you agree to it.

Examples of phrases that need to be rephrased include “I believe that you should agree to my offer because it is the best offer that you are going to get.” Drop the “… because it is the best offer that you are going to get” part and see if you agree with what is being said. Another approach that the other side might use would be to break payments up into many smaller payments. Take the time to think about how you would respond if they were offering to allow you to make just one single larger payment. Would this still be a good deal?

What All Of This Means For You

Negotiating is not something that we do alone. Instead, there is always somebody sitting on the other side of the table. What we need to realize is that that person has their own unique set of skills and talents. This means that we need to come to the principled negotiation with our own set of defensive negotiation strategies.

In order to be successful in your negotiation, you are going to have to make sure that you have prepared for the negotiation. This means that you’ll need to have a good understanding of your BATNA in order to make sure that you don’t end up accepting a bad proposal. When you are negotiating with someone you need to be able to separate the information that they are presenting you with from the influence that they bring to the negotiating table. The way that you do is to focus on what they are proposing and drop the other words. When the other side makes a proposal to you it will be necessary for you to rephrase it in order to determine if this is an offer that you should accept.

Every negotiation is a battle between two sides. Your goal as a negotiator is to get the best deal that you can reach. Since the other side will be trying to do the same thing, you need to come to the negotiation equipped to defend your position. Your good defense is the first step in making sure that you can get what you want to get out of your next negotiation.

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

Question For You: If you rephrase a proposal and decide that you don’t want to accept it, should you rephrase what has been offered to you back to the other side to see if they would agree to your proposal?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As negotiators, we often view a negotiation that we are involved in as being a high-stakes operation. The future of the company, somebody’s career, or a quarter’s profits may all be on the line. However, nothing that we do stacks up to the challenges that are faced by police hostage negotiators. Each one of their negotiations can quite literally be a matter of life and death. Since these types of negotiators deal with such high-stakes situations, you’d think that we could learn a thing or two from them…