Not everyone you negotiate with is skilled in collaborative strategies, and your bargaining partner may take a more competitive approach. Learn how to recognize contentious tactics so you can either disengage, meet fire with fire, or change the conversati
- Not everyone you deal with will know how to ask diagnostic questions or how to brainstorm and engage in problem solving. In fact, your conversation partner may resort to contentious or competitive tactics in an attempt to hold their ground or keep as many pieces of the pie as possible. It's important for you to learn and recognize these tactics so you can either disengage or meet fire with fire, or change the conversation altogether.
It's really an opportunity to demonstrate your leadership. There are many contentious tactics but I want to focus on the five most common. The first is ingratiation. Now this is getting what we want through charm or flattery or just because we're so darn likable. It might sound like, "Hey, you're so skilled "and fast with spreadsheets, "and I'd love your help setting one up for me." In truth, this is a very useful tactic, especially if it's used authentically.
But turn on the charm a little too high and it's going to feel smarmy. Now promises is getting what you want now by agreeing to do something in exchange later, something like, "If you run the meeting "again for me today, "I'll cover for you anytime you want to take a day off." Again, this is a useful tactic, especially when it's employed for mutual gain. But if a promise smells fishy or impossible to deliver, ask a couple of diagnostic questions to see if you can find other alternatives.
Next is shaming, and it's much more common than we'd all like to admit. This tactic is expressing shock or disapproval about somebody's behavior, usually on moral grounds. It might sound like this. "Your work is pretty subpar so far "and it really doesn't represent company standards." Ouch, right? While it might be true, it doesn't do much to promote engagement or relationship. So if you're the one being shamed, say ouch and change the conversation by asking open-ended questions.
Persuasive argumentation now is the use of logic and reason to make the case for something that you want or to change somebody's behavior or position. It might sound something like, "All the data shows that people aren't buying trucks, "and I'd like to get your ideas about why that's happening." That's a better, more collaborative conversation starter. The final tactic is making threats or expressing the intention of doing harm. "If you can't keep up and meet deadlines, "your days are numbered." In the workplace, using threats like this is toxic to productivity and engagement.
If you experience threatening language and you don't feel safe, say so and end the conversation. With both persuasive argumentation and threats, you might also try mirroring back the last few words. If your partner says, "If you can't keep up "and meet deadlines, your days are numbered," try repeating, "My days are numbered." This gives your partner a chance to backpedal and move from blame to problem solving, or at the very least to explain themselves.
When someone uses contentious tactics in an adversarial way, here are a couple more tips. Focus on the problem, not the person. Try to get to the root of the issue by asking questions, listening and paraphrasing to make sure you understand your conversation partner's perspective. Now I want to reiterate that most contentious tactics are not evil or bad. They're simply competitive. In the hands of a bad actor, they're deployed to gain advantage.
They win, you lose. But if you can recognize them as they're happening, you can use all your interest-based strategies to pause, slow things down, and depersonalize the situation. You'll change the conversation from beating your adversary to engaging an ally in a solution.
- Identify the different types of negotiation.
- Distinguish the difference between asking and negotiation.
- List core negotiation practices.
- Explain anchoring and framing for mutual benefit.
- Describe tactical empathy.
- Explain the principles of influence.
- Create an influence plan.
- Analyze conflict styles.
- Recognize contentious negotiation tactics.