Business Negotiation April 01, 2014

Change the Negotiator

Breakdowns are not always caused by world-shattering issues or great matters of economics.   Sometimes opposing negotiators simply dislike one another for reasons that make no economic sense...

Breakdowns are not always caused by world-shattering issues or great matters of economics.  Sometimes opposing negotiators simply dislike one another for reasons that make no economic sense.

I have participated in negotiations in which deadlock occurred because our team leader was unwilling to face the fact that his line of reasoning was wrong.  He didn’t want to admit error to the opposing leader by saying “yes” to the other party’s logic.  To save face and protect his ego, he preferred to deadlock rather than settle.  When we changed negotiators, the tension disappeared and we were able to reach a satisfactory agreement.

Many deadlocks are the result of personality differences, fear of losing face, organizational infighting, a poor working relationship with the boss or the inability to make decisions.  Any consideration of how to break an impasses must take into account the human factor. 

Personality clashes between opponents is not the only reason for changing negotiators.  Often stalled talks can be recharged by raising (or lowering) the authority level of the bargainers.  Sometimes one can get things going again by having one participant drop out and replacing her with an associate, friend or spouse.  A salesperson can forestall an impasse by bringing in an engineer or pricing specialist to support the seller’s position.

Changing the negotiator or the team can bring new perspectives to the table and change the direction of the talks.  It can serve to soften the impact of prior disagreements.
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