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Best Practices In Negotiation: Bullying

March 25, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 189

Read negotiation literature, some of it springing from Harvard research, and you'll be cautioned repeatedly about the sins of reaching deadlocks in the proceedings.

This is where participants stake out positions and refuse to budge.

"I need $32 million for this business and not a penny less!"

"You'll only get sixteen from me!"

During a recent simulation I heard my trainees come to a standstill.

"Well, I don't see how I can do it for any less," one of them braved.

And quickly enough, the other one caved, finding a way to satisfy the demand.

Conceding so quickly and dramatically, without getting anything in return, is not a trained response. It goes against most teachings that focus on producing win/win outcomes.

In a better world, usually one devised by academics and trainers-for-hire, bullies aren't supposed to prevail, but often enough, they do. And what is called, "positional bargaining," insisting on getting exactly what you want, and no less, can be effective.

That is an unsettling truth about real-world encounters, consistent with a best practice in negotiation: If you insist on getting more, by golly, you'll often get more. This means, if you are a seller, stake out a high price, initially. If you are the buyer, make your offer lower than you think will be accepted.

In communication research, we see a parallel outcome. During group deliberations, often the most radical, least flexible voice has a disproportionate effect on attitudes and behavior.

Lawyers and debaters, following advice as old as Aristotle, are taught to "argue opposites," polar positions. If they want to bend behavior in their direction, they need to make the strongest possible case.

Of course, bullying has some nasty impacts.

Strong counterparts often reject such tactics on the spot, storming away. Conceders are discouraged from returning to the bargaining tables for fear that they'll emerge with even less, in the next bout.

Bullying in negotiations degrades the quality of discourse, favoring reflexes over reflection. Ultimately, civil society pays a huge price when might-makes-right.

What's the answer? It's simple: When bullied in a negotiation, make an equally radical demand. Push back. Deadlock, if necessary. Walk away.

Demonstrate you need an agreement less than they do.

Mirroring the bully's behavior will probably feel uncomfortable because it isn't like you. You'll resist lowering your standards to meet theirs. Just as a schoolyard bully is shocked by a victim's sudden assertiveness, you'll probably find your counterpart will back down, and retreat.

Know this: If they genuinely want a deal, they'll be back.

Dr. Gary S. Goodman is a top speaker, sales, service, and negotiation consultant, attorney, TV and radio commentator and the best-selling author more than a dozen books.

Gary is a rare combination: an everyday practitioner, a teacher, and an innovator.

He conducts seminars at UC Berkeley and UCLA Extension and speaks at convention programs around the world. His new book is DR. GARY S. GOODMAN'S 77 BEST PRACTICES IN NEGOTIATION and his current audio program is Nightingale-Conant's "Crystal Clear Communication: How to Explain Anything Clearly in Speech & Writing." He can be contacted about professional speaking and consulting engagements at

Source: EzineArticles
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