Tactics in difficult negotiations.

Tactics in difficult negotiations

Your negotiation strategy is the guiding principle for tactics you use, while tactics are tools that help you implement the strategy. Therefore, the latter should be adapted to the negotiation process. 

Beware that not all tactics will match your personality or your negotiating style. Every negotiation is different, so what's right for one negotiation might not work next time. Choosing a tactic that allows you to be authentic and appear genuineduring the negotiation process would be best.

Some of the tactics one could apply in difficult negotiations include:


Creating a storyline: 

Negotiations do not occur in seclusion – they are always a part of a more extensive process that is being observed and evaluated internally and externally. Due to an increased observation by the media, fewer negotiations are now conducted in private. There are two ways to attend to this: either you take extra precautions to protect information or make a plan to inform the public from the beginning.

The Schranner Concept promotes being proactive rather than reactive. We recommend a proactive approach to communications, i.e., early involvement of the public. That means dedicating time to storytelling during the preparation phase of the negotiation.

Every negotiation process needs an emotional storyline to deliver an underlying purpose. What is the "why" behind your negotiations? The commander is responsible for the storyline, presenting it at the negotiation table, on social media, and in every summary. It is crucial to tell a true story – "fake news" should be out of the question.


Increasing time pressure on both sides:

Time pressure is a positive element in any negotiation. Parties need it for the additional motivation to negotiate. Introduce time pressure by setting an agenda – a tactic to lead negotiations. It is crucial to present the agenda to your negotiating partner and be prepared to negotiate it. 

During a meeting, define the timeframe for reaching milestones with your partner and highlight the common understanding of the process. If the partner does not stick to the timeline and avoids agreement, do not accuse them of it; use a warning instead. Never accuse your negotiating partner or put them in an uncomfortable position at the table; this would cause an emotional reaction on their side and could damage your relationship.


Embracing the conflict:

There are two main approaches to addressing a conflict during a negotiation. 

The first approach is known as "gathering the low-hanging fruits" - make cooperative demands at the beginning to create a pleasant atmosphere, and put the main challenge off until later. If parties opt for the first approach in difficult negotiations, they usually end up deadlocked at a certain point since they attempt to hide the underlying issues to avoid a conflict. 

Finding solutions at the beginning of the negotiation, rather than attempting to devise an acceptable agreement in a deadlock, is always more painless. 

Therefore, in difficult negotiations, we advise using the second approach, namely "putting the fish on the table". You have to address the conflict initially and embrace the possibility of starting the negotiation from a deadlock. This approach reveals what is essential for you in this negotiation and gives a clear signal to your opponent that you are ready to deal with the conflict.


Summarising common interests:

In difficult negotiations, both sides start the process with significantly opposing views on an acceptable outcome. False interpretations will always impede negotiations, interfere with reaching a settlement and strain the relationships. In order to avoid misunderstandings, continuously summarize points you have agreed on and highlight common interests

In your summary, never express disappointment, talk about conflict, or accuse your negotiation partner. Instead, show your gratitude for their willingness to cooperate.  

At the end of the negotiation, summarize the options you have discussed one last time and state clearly what has been agreed on to avoid further misunderstandings. Record the agreement in an email and get everyone's approval while you are still at the table. Never leave a negotiating room without a written confirmation of the deal.


Pointing out contradictions:

Experience shows that all negotiating partners will contradict themselves several times during the negotiation process. These contradictions allow you to exert power over your opponent, form a deeper understanding of your partner's motives, and find out what makes the opposite party so convinced of their bargaining position.

As the negotiation progresses, make notes of your negotiating partner's remarks, including when they made each statement. Write down all the quotes line by line, mark the time on the left side, followed by the quote, and a "C" to indicate a contradiction but do not address it immediately! Instead, collect several contradictions first, which you can then use effectively in an appropriate situation. When the right time comes, bring the contradiction up and remain quiet. Ideally, the other party will clarify the inconsistencies - which will allow you to gain a better understanding of their motives.

Do you want to learn more about negotiating? On the 6th and 7th of October 2022, the Negotiation Conference will be held in Zurich.

Click here to read more about it and register for the event.


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