How to Handle Difficult Conversations

yelling manDifficult conversations or manipulative tactics can be deal makers or deal breakers, depending on the stage of the negotiations, the relationships of the parties, and the ability to use or thwart manipulative tactics. This article identifies barrier tactics and how to defuse their effects.

“The use of means which violate the reasonable expectations of one’s negotiating counter-party” is a definition of negotiation manipulations which are insulting and inflammatory. You will face demanding, unclear, frustrating, and manipulative personalities at some point during your negotiations endeavors. These are specific tactics used to intimidate you and /or derail the discussion. Be prepared to navigate these personality traits to breakdown these barriers to effective communications.

The “Yes, but…” person

The “Yes, but…” person is one who discounts or rejects just about everything you say. They will appear to be unable to make decisions, making you responsible for the lack of progress in the dialogue. They will acknowledge the validity of the option/decision/action, but there is always a reason why it will not work. One of the most effective ways to deal with this type is by way of the Label and an Open Ended Question (OEQ). Respond to the “Yes, but” with, “You seem to be having some difficulty accepting what I am proposing. How should we resolve this?”

The suspicious person

The suspicious person is controlled by fear on some level making the establishment of rapport difficult. A Paraphrase and an OEQ may be in order. For example, “You seem to be having a problem trusting me and my company. What can I do to allay some of your concerns?” By using these techniques in this fashion, you are identifying the trust issues and refocusing them on the underlying cause of their suspicion.

The Hostile Person

The hostile or angry person attempts to control you through intimidation. This is the individual who personalizes angry responses and insults you because it is their default coping mechanism. It is also used as a common an avoidance response. Your first response is to control yourself. The only thing you have absolute control over is your own response and emotions. If you speak in anger, you will make the best speech you will ever regret. The next step is to use an “I” Message to confront the person without sounding confrontational. “When you ________, I feel ___________ because _________”. When they challenge you about labeling them, you can respond by saying, “I didn’t say you were angry. I said you sounded angry. Help me understand how what I am hearing is wrong.”

The Challenging Person

The challenging subject attempts to exert power and a sense of superiority over you. He or she will challenge your experience, knowledge, expertise, ability, or authority. Their focus is on you, not the issue. They are the consummate derailer. You will find them to be calm, composed, and appearing to enjoy the “game”. Don’t respond directly to the challenge or the insult. Avoid a power or knowledge struggle. Again, your own control is paramount. Show no negativity in tone or response. Ask what they would do if they were in your shoes.

Be firm and principled. Don’t back down simply because they are being difficult. Use your active listening skills to determine the underlying cause of their behavior in order to change it and gain the edge.

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