How To Defend Yourself During A Negotiation

We need to learn how to negotiate without bias while defending our position
We need to learn how to negotiate without bias while defending our position
Image Credit: Wanda Ostojowna SCA Pictures

When we picture ourselves in a negotiation, we often see ourselves using our negotiation styles and negotiating techniques to make a point. Or perhaps at the board drawing out a scenario. Or maybe even handing papers to the other side for them to review. What we don’t often see is ourselves on the defensive. However, if the other side consists of skilled negotiators, there is a very good chance that at some point in time during the negotiations we’re going to end up with our backs to the wall. What we need are some defensive strategies that we can use when this happens to us.

Strategy #1: Always Be Prepared

One of the main reasons that we can find ourselves in a defensive position during a negotiation is if we have not taken the time to properly prepare for the task at hand. Yes, yes – things got busy before the negotiations started and although we may have had the best of intentions, we never got around to sitting done to do the homework that we knew that we needed to do. What’s going to happen now is that at some point in the negotiations, the other side is going to bring up something that we have no information on. When this happens then all of a sudden we’re going to be on the defensive.

So what can we do to make sure that this does not happen to us? It’s actually pretty simple: we need to take the time to prepare thoroughly for our next negotiation. The way that we can do is by taking the time to take a close look at what your BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement) is. At the same time you are going to want to make sure that you are aware of all of the ZOPA (zones of possible agreement) that may exist in this negotiation. You have to have a good understanding of all of the issues that are going to be discussed during this negotiation. All of this preparation is what’s going to keep you from accepting a deal that is not the best one for you.

Strategy #2: Understand The Difference Between Information And Influence

During a negotiation, a lot of things are going to be said. Some of them will be truthful and some of them may stretch the truth a bit or a whole lot. As a negotiator you need to be aware of this and take everything that the other side tells you with a grain of salt. It is going to be your job to sift through everything that is said and try to determine what you can really believe.

What you are going to have to realize is that the other side is going to be feeding you both valid information and attempts at influence. What this means for you is that you are going to have to take time to separate information from influence before you decide how you want to react to what they have told you. The other side will at times make either a request of you or an argument for their position that may seem valid to you. However, before you accept it, you need to ask yourself some questions. The first is if anyone else had made this proposal, would you be willing to agree to it? Ask yourself would I have agreed to this proposal yesterday, or even an hour ago? Finally, you need to have an answer to the question of can I defend my compliance with this request to my colleagues and my boss?

Strategy #3: Use The Power Of Rephrasing

One of the most powerful tools that any negotiator has is how they choose to frame their requests. Something that we might object to if it was stated one way may be something that we’ll agree to if it is stated a different way. How persuasive the other side is can end up backing us into a corner. A case in point is if someone offers to pay you for something in a series of small payments. That may be fine, but you need to ask yourself if you would be better off if they made one single large payment to you.

So what you can do to prevent the other side from using their smooth words to present you with something that you should not accept? One thing that you always want to be doing is to be exploring what alternatives you have to the negotiations that you are currently involved in. This allows you to keep your discussions in context. You need to have taken the time before the negotiations started to prepare. One of the reasons that you’ll want to have done this is so that you will be able to find places during the negotiations where value can be created for both sides. Make sure that you are highly aware of what your BATNA is so that you’ll know if you need to walk away. At the same time you are going to want to know your reservation price, the greatest price you would be willing to pay, so that you’ll know if you are looking at a bad deal for you.

What All Of This Means For You

In any principled negotiation that we participate in we’d like to be able to picture ourselves as being in control. We’d like to be the ones running the show. However, if the other side has skilled negotiators, then there is a very good chance that at some point in time during the negotiations we’re going to find ourselves playing defense. When this happens, we had better have some defensive strategies that we can start to employ.

The first strategy is simple enough: don’t go into a negotiation that you are not prepared for. Before a negotiation starts, make sure that you’ve done your homework and prepared for it. Make sure that you understand your BATNA, ZOPA, and the issues that will be discussed. During a negotiation there will be a lot of things said. As a negotiator you need to understand that a key part of your job will be to separate between truth and fiction. How the other side chooses to phrase their offers to you may influence your willingness to accept what they are offering you. You need to make sure that you take the time to rephrase all offers to make sure that you are truly willing to accept them.

During any negotiation that you may find yourself in, you need to understand that at any point in time you may find yourself forced into a defensive position. If this occurs then you’ll need to have defensive strategies that you can use. The use of defensive strategies will allow you to protect your positions in the negotiation and will ensure that you don’t end up agreeing to a deal that would be bad for you. Make sure that the next time you go into a negotiation you go in armed with the defensive strategies that will allow you to get the deal that you want!

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

Question For You: How much time do you think that you should spend preparing for a negotiation?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

The next time that you enter into a negotiation, how do you want the other side to view you? If you are like most of us who have had our impression of what a world-class negotiator looks like shaped by television and the movies: when we use our negotiation styles and negotiating techniques we want to come across as being a tough guy, unyielding and bound to get our way no matter what. However, what researchers have discovered is that negotiators with a reputation for collaboration rather than competition tend to do better. You can’t fully control what others think and say about you, none of us can, but you can find ways to seize opportunities to appear as cooperative as possible during and after a business negotiation. Here’s how to do this.

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