Negotiation: What If They Don’t Play Fair?

board game with one die and three plastic good playing characters

One of the signs of a healthy society is that people are able to negotiate their differences in a civil manner. One of the ways to do this is to focus on principles rather that positions. Once you take a position, then it becomes a kind of war because you have to defend your position. Focusing on principles frees you up to consider alternatives solutions, the idea being that, in a successful negotiation, both parties are satisfied by the solution because it honors the principles of both sides.

But what do we do if the other person or group refuses to play by the rules? What if they insist on playing the position game rather than the principle game? Fortunately, you still have some options. Let’s look at some of these options.

1. Turn their position into an option. When they shove their position in your face, just say, “Yes, that is an option.”

If the plumber insists, “I cannot work for less than eighty dollars an hour.” Counter by saying, “That’s an option. Let’s compare it with current plumbing rates listed by the Better Business Bureau.”

2. Constantly look behind their position. Try to identify their underlying interests.

A skilled negotiator can bring those interests to the surface. Culture has a huge role in this as well. For many cultures, saving face is a high priority. In such cultures, you may have to help them save face, especially if they have already announced their position publicly and to change it now would cause them to lose face.

3. Use questions instead of statements.

Instead of saying, “Your offer really doesn’t make sense compared to current property rates” consider asking the question: “Do you think this makes sense compared to current property rates?”

4. Reframe their position as your problem.

“You know, that offer makes it hard for me to come to agreement because, according to the criteria, it doesn’t seem fair.” After stating your problem, step back and remain silent as it soaks in.

5. Whatever you do, don’t push back. Don’t fall in line with their positional game.

These simple techniques will help you deal with difficult people. They can keep you from falling into the positional trap. They require more mental discipline and deliberation, but the benefit is that they leave you in control of the negotiation.

provides consulting services for churches and organizations. Contact Dr. Waddell today at gregwaddell[at]leadstrategic.com to discuss the needs of your organization.

Credits
Photo by Skitterphoto. Photo available at Pixabay under CC0 license. Image modified for size and space.

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