When the other side doesn’t budge, resist the temptation to counter with your position.
- “That’s interesting. Why do you want that?”
- “You make a good case. But when I go back to my side, how should I present it to them?”
Ask Problem Solving Questions
When they state their position, ask “Why is it you want that?”
But how you ask is as important as what you ask. In some circumstances, an indirect question may be better than a direct one:
- “I’m not sure I understand why you want X.”
- “You probably have a good reason. Help me understand it.”
Ensure your tone has a suitable amount of respect in it.
Ask “Why Not?”
If “why” does not work, propose something and ask “why not?” “What is problematic with it?” People love to criticize. And they love to correct misconceptions.
If they resist, they are worried you will use the information against them. If so, give them some of your interests (if they can be disclosed).
Ask “What If?”
Create options and ask “What if…?” without discounting their position.
If they start criticizing, say “Let’s put all the options on the table and evaluate them later.”
Ask For Their Advice
- “What would you do in my shoes?”
- “What should I say to my constituents?”
- Pay respects: “I was told you’re the expert…How would I…?”
Ask “What Makes That Fair?”
If the other side is fairly unreasonable, say “You must have good reasons for thinking this is fair. I’d like to hear them.”
They may reject the standards. Shift the discussion to which standards should apply.
Make Your Questions Open Ended
If you ask “Can’t the policy be changed?” you are almost guaranteed to get “No”. Instead, ask “What is the purpose of the policy?” and “How can we modify the policy?”
Tap The Power of Silence
The other side may become silent while pondering over your question. Do not break the silence.
Finally, if your question did not work, ask another one!
Go Around Stone Walls
Ignore the stone walls*
Suppose they give an ultimatum. Ignore it and talk as if you didn’t hear it. If they are serious, they will repeat it.
Reinterpret the Stone Wall as an Aspiration
“The union employees are demanding a 15% raise.” Respond with saying it is a worthy aspiration and let’s see what we can do.
Or if they give a deadline, say “It’ll be great if we agree by then. Let’s get to it!”
Take the Stone Wall Seriously, But Test It
If a deadline is approaching, treat it as serious, but near the end, find an excuse on why you cannot deliver. If they accept it, you know they are flexible.
Use deadlines to your advantage: “Given your deadline, this is the most we can reasonably do.” Or give them some of the work if they need it by that deadline.
Ignore the Attack
Just pretend you did not hear it. Do not challenge the attack.
Reframe an Attack on You as an Attack on the Problem
“Don’t you know better than to submit a proposal that will never fly?”
“How would you improve the proposal?”
Reframe a Personal Attack as Friendly
“You don’t look too good. Are you OK?”. Respond with “I feel great now that we’re close to an agreement”
Reframe From Past Wrongs to Future Remedies
If they (legitimately) criticize you for the past, ask how to ensure the problem won’t recur.
Reframe From “you” and “me” to “we”
Stop using “you”, “I”, “me” statements, and frame everything to “we”.
Don’t sit across each other. Sit side by side.
Calling out a trick may work, but it is risky. One option is to pretend good faith and act dumb. Ask slow and probing questions to test their sincerity.
Ask Clarifying Questions
Use a non-judgmental tone. When discrepancies appear, act appropriately confused. “I don’t understand. You said…”
Test suspicions by asking questions you already have the answers to.
Common trick: Claiming authority where they don’t have any. Ask “Am I correct in assuming you have the authority to settle this matter?” If not, find who does and how long they take to get the answer.
If someone tries to nibble, ask “Should we reopen the negotiation?” If they say “yes”, say the current agreement is a joint draft that is not agreed upon. You’ll adjourn for the day and ponder over what changes to make (or say your boss will).
Make a Reasonable Request
Design a reasonable request that the other side will agree to if they are sincere, but won’t if it is a ruse. A lot of people play tricks to get you to reveal your side. So test their cooperation by making them act on something early.
If they say they have a difficult partner, suggest a collective mistake on not including them and postpone negotiations until the partner can join.
Turn the Trick to Your Advantage
If you suspect the other side will not stick to their end of the deal, get strong assurances. Then put an expensive clause for non-compliance.
Negotiate About the Rules of the Game
If none of these succeed, then negotiate the rules of the game.
Bring It Up
Name the tactic. Preferably in a good natured form. Not as a complaint/criticism.
If they are rude, say “You must have had a rough day.” If threatening, say “You’re not trying to threaten me, are you?” If constantly interrupting, say “You’re interrupting me.” or “May I finish my sentence?” But don’t be harsh.
Negotiate About The Negotiation
Take them aside. Say we’re not getting anywhere, and that we should discuss the rules.
If the person sticks to positions, say “I think we can expand the pie, but I can’t help if I don’t know your interests.”
If they need to change their behavior, say “I’m happy to continue when you are willing to stop …”