Back in 1985, the rock group Talking Heads sang “we are on a road to nowhere.” Perhaps they were singing about how they felt about negotiations that don’t seem to get anywhere: no-deal-wanted negotiations.

It is true that parties in a negotiation do not always negotiate to reach agreement. In some cases, these no-deal-wanted negotiations are completely unethical, designed to tie up one of the parties and keep them from achieving legitimate results. For instance, there are buyers who negotiate in order to tie up a seller’s inventory.

However, no-deal-wanted negotiations can be used as a legitimate part of the bargaining process. Some negotiations are conducted exclusively as a stalling tactic, and are not necessarily unethical.

Why would parties enter a negotiation that is going nowhere? Here are a few reasons:

  • To gain leverage elsewhere
  • To set the stage for “real” negotiations later
  • To get information
  • To delay decisions or actions
  • To gain time (to search for alternatives, to get others involved, etc.)
  • To show willingness to negotiate even though there is none
  • To force an arbitration
  • To divert attention

Sometimes there is a political reason to enter negotiations or parties need to “save face.” Diplomatic negotiations can sometimes be no-deal-wanted negotiations but both parties want to seem concerned about reaching some type of agreement.

How do you deal with a no-deal-wanted negotiation? Have you ever forced an agreement?

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