Negotiating With Bullies

When facing a bully in negotiation, should you behave the same way?

Each of us has encountered this type of negotiator: A customer who threatens to give your business to a competitor if you don't give in to what he or she wants. A family member or close friend who behaves as a victim, playing the guilt card. Or an angry boss when the outcome is not what he or she expected.

If we had the choice, we'd like to avoid this type of interaction. But in most cases, we don't have that luxury.

When we're under pressure, competiveness and aggressiveness sometimes take over. Our brain works as a tunnel and we go back to our natural style. Because emotions and tensions rise, we tend to defend our point of view, persuade and argue, making it very difficult to negotiate a solution that works for both parties.

If you face a bully negotiator, be prepared. Understand your needs and limits so you can resist the temptation to accept a bad deal under pressure.  Find out why those on the other party behave like that by acknowledging and understanding the issues to which they're emotionally involved. Once these clear up, ask good questions to uncover their true concerns. Try to act as a consultant to understand their reality.

When it's time to package and re-package the proposal, be creative to suit the needs of those on the other side on your terms. They might throw irritant factors in the equation. But don't get emotional.  They're suspicious by nature.

So next time you face a bully negotiator, don't forget that competitive stances breed competitive stances, making it less likely that you'll get access to their needs, interests and inhibitions.

Remember people negotiate because they have an interest - even bullies.

Gaëtan Pellerin, Scotwork North America

Written by Gaëtan Pellerin at 14:45


Chris Crosby said...
Nice article. Particularly the part about asking questions to better understand their position. By focusing the negotiation on the issues and not the bully's behavior they often "run out of steam".
February 5, 2013 02:23
Very insightful article, and a reminder that competitive stances breed competitive stances.
February 26, 2013 03:32
Jim Grise said...
Great summary of the topic that has touched everyone. We often forget that even the "bully" has the same human emotions that we do. Emotions are always worth acknowledging, yet they don't have to be the foundation from which we find a good outcome. Don't bully your bully, hug them! Then give them what they really want, which is not a fight or irrational outcomes, yet simply acknowledgement of their concerns. You'll then get what you want, too.
March 2, 2013 02:14


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