Negotiating in Life , Business Negotiation , Negotiation Tactics July 25, 2011

5 Proven Ways to Break an Impasse

As this is being written, the United States debt ceiling negotiations are still at an impasse. However, there are many ways to break an impasse...

As this is being written, the United States debt ceiling negotiations are still at an impasse. However, there are many ways to break an impasse. Dr. Chester Karrass devotes a chapter in his book In Business As In Life—You Don’t Get What You Deserve, You Get What You Negotiate to “The Art  of Breaking a Dealock”

The “trick” to breaking an impasse is knowing how to reopen talks gracefully, without loss of face or bargaining power. Effective negotiation techniques appeal to the self-interest of both parties, and allow them to find a way to continue a discussion involving new ideas and solutions.

The Gradual Approach

One way to break an impasse when the differences are very large is to do it bit by bit. Generally, parties find it easier to agree on one thing rather than a large number of issues.

The Bookkeeping Technique

In the bookkeeping technique, a “bookkeeper” writes down a complete “score” of both settled and unsettled issues, starting with what issues have been agreed to, followed by what issues are still open, and lastly what issues are in disagreement. This allows the parties to focus their attention on what already has been accomplished, which ultimately reduces the tension.

Move from the Sticky Issue

Shifting talks to other issues is a good way to keep the momentum of a negotiation going. The more points the parties agree on, the greater the chances of a settlement.

Use a Mediator

Bringing a third party to the negotiation table is a good way for both sides to discover a face-saving way to resolve differences.

Change the Negotiator

Sometimes breakdowns in negotiations occur due to personality clashes—the negotiators just don’t like each other. By changing the negotiator and/or the team, a new perspective can be brought to the table and the talk can thus change direction.

What is your best technique for breaking an impasse?
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