Dealing With Aggressive Negotiators

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The longer you work in a high volume negotiation role the more you get to see in terms of styles or roles within the spectrum of negotiation ability and skill sets. There are many negotiators out there who truly look for win-win scenarios and are actively engaging to ensure that they come to a deal that makes sense for both parties. And there are others who want to take everything you have. There are some that negotiate aggressively and there are some that negotiate passively. It’s an incredibly wide spectrum with many styles, abilities and intentions.

In today’s post, I’m going to show you two tactics to deal with a aggressive negotiators where the intention of those tactics is to assert dominance over the other party. Don’t kid yourself, dominance and power are big parts of negotiations. I know we all talk about collaboration and negotiation in its ‘ideal’ state, but the truth is that some people get off on being dominant over others and exerting their power. And that’s okay. Trust me, its going to happen. And when it does, you’ll need to know how to deal with it.

Defense Tactic 1

Let them be dominant – There are some negotiators that want dominance over the other party. They’ve had a taste of wielding a hammer and when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. They like to talk about how lucky you are to get their business, how amazing their company is, how much competition there was competing for it, and then strangely, how they want a mutually beneficial relationship (as if that piece is on auto pilot when they say it).

These people love are goal driven, aggressive, and arrogant. They love to take credit and aren’t great at giving it out. They want to be dominant and when you ask the right questions, they love to talk about their plans for domination. In my estimation, their need to dominate is likely a symptom of some deeper insecurity.

If you flex against these people and try to take away their power they get flustered and angry. They immediately go into lock down mode and read you the riot act. Some of them are ‘forgiving’ and will tell you as much after this happens once or twice, but if you continue to push against this type of negotiator, they will find a way to remove you.

So why fight these people? They want so badly to be big and strong and dominant, so let them be. Play into their insecurities and their need to dominate and let them dominate. For many people this is difficult, but honestly, its way easier to get what you want when you let them talk about how amazing they are and how everyone else is doing it wrong. When you get them talking about this and their plans to dominate, asking probing questions and empathizing with them to draw out SOOO much information it will frighten you. They desperately want people to listen to them, so listen. When you can empathize with this typoe of person effectively, you become the person they call and the person they trust. And if type of person trusts you, you’ll end up getting whatever you want from this relationship if you play the long game.

Defense Tactic 2

Call out the bullshit – As a rule of thumb, I call out bullshit when I see it. If I see someone in a negotiation trying to play a good guy/bad guy routine or displaying threatening language or behavior, I call it out. And strangely, the act of calling it out is often enough to neutralize the behavior.

Many of these encounters are likely to come up in a negotiation where one party believes they have more leverage than the other. Some negotiators just boldly threaten the other party. “Do as you’re told or else” or some derivative of this is their ‘go to’ threat. And then we’re meant to cower in fear because they’ve got more leverage. That’s the plan, at least. And yet some negotiators say their threat differently so that it’s still very clearly a threat, but it’s disguised as ‘advice’ or ‘kindness’. This is called a veiled threat. It usually looks like this: “I want to make sure you’re making the right decision for your business here. I would hate to see this business go to another company.” This is a classic veiled threat. It reeks of insincerity.

When this happens in a negotiation I call it out. And language here is key. You cannot say something like, “DON’T THREATEN ME!!!” Because you will very quickly escalate the situation. Whenever you hear a veiled threat it very important to pause before you speak. This shows that you are fully grasping what was just said. Then your language should look something like this, “You know [insert name of other party here], I’d like to think that we both have a mutual respect for one another. I’d hate to think that I was being threatened to elicit a concession at any point in this discussion. That’s not what’s happening here is it?”

If you can deliver this line, in my experience, the dominant, threatening tone of the other party very quickly disappears and you may even get an apology.

In my estimation, with these two tactics, you should be able to neutralize most aggressive negotiators. And while there are many other ways someone could be aggressive in a negotiation, in my experience, these are the two most common.