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12 Tips for Negotiating and Compromising with Difficult People

by Caug124

May 17th, 2010
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Negotiating is the process of attempting to agree on a solution. Compromising, or settling on a mutually agreeable solution, is the result of successful negotiations. Compromise is all about being flexible. It means being able to generate alternate solutions when you’ve “hit the wall.” Whether it involves a person you can’t get along with, an idea you know will work but that others are reluctant to agree to, a change in office systems, or a turf war that needs ending, learning to negotiate and compromise is essential to your success.

1. Have a positive attitude.
Your attitude is essential to the outcome. You have a much better chance of coming to an outcome involving mutual gains if you approach the negotiation as an opportunity to learn and achieve a win-win outcome.

2. Meet on mutual ground.
Find a mutually agreeable and convenient physical space to meet that is comfortable for all involved. Agree on when you will meet and how much time is available to devote to the process. Whenever possible, deal with negotiations face-to-face. Be careful about using the phone and e-mail. A lack of facial expressions, vocal intonation, and other cues can result in a negotiation breakdown.

3. Clearly define and agree on the issue.
Agree on the statement of the issue using simple and factual terms. If the situation is multifaceted, search for ways to slice the large issue into smaller pieces and deal with one issue at a time.

4. Do your homework.
Take time to plan. You must not only know what is at stake for yourself, but you need to know the other side’s concerns and motivation. Take into consideration any history or past situations that might affect the negotiations. Know the must-haves (nonnegotiable items) and nice-to-haves (negotiable items). Determine the best resolution, a fair and reasonable deal, and a minimally acceptable deal.

5. Take an honest inventory of yourself.
Determine the level of trust you have in the other person and the process. Be conscious of aspects of your personality that can help or hinder the process.

6. Look for shared interests.
Get on the same side by finding and establishing similarities. Since conflict tends to magnify perceived differences and minimize similarities, look for common goals, objectives, or even gripes that can illustrate that you are in this together. Focus on the future, talk about what is to be done, and tackle the problem jointly.

7. Deal with facts, not emotions.
Address problems, not personalities. Avoid any tendency to attack the other person or to pass judgment on his or her ideas and opinions. Avoid focusing on the past or blaming the other person. Maintain a rational, goal-oriented frame of mind. This will depersonalize the conflict, separate the issues from the people involved, and avoid defensiveness.

8. Be honest.
Don’t play games. Be honest and clear about what is important to you. It is equally important to be clear and to communicate why your goals, issues, and objectives are important to you.

9. Present alternatives and provide evidence.
Create options and alternatives that demonstrate your willingness to compromise. Consider conceding in areas that might have high value to the other person but are not that important to you. Frame options in terms of the other person’s interests and provide evidence for your point of view.

10. Be an expert communicator.
Nothing shows determination to find a mutually satisfactory resolution to conflict more than applying excellent communication skills. Ask questions, listen, rephrase what you heard to check for understanding, and take a genuine interest in the other side’s concerns. Reduce tension through humor, let the other “vent,” and acknowledge the other’s views. Focus less on your position and more on ways in which you can move toward a resolution or compromise.

11. End on a good note.
Develop a win-win proposal and check to make sure that everyone involved leaves the situation feeling they have “won.” Shake on it and agree on the action steps, who is responsible for each step, how success will be measured, and how and when the decision will be evaluated. Be open to reaching an impasse for non-critical issues; you can agree to disagree on minor issues.

12. Enjoy the process.
Look at the benefits of learning other points of view. People report that after overcoming conflict and reaching an agreement, the relationship grew even stronger. Reflect and learn from each negotiation. Determine the criteria to evaluate the process and the solution.


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  1. Guy Farmer /

    Great ideas. I’ve found it helpful as well to work on deeper communication and building relationships. Deeper communication is about people being able to tell their story without any outside interference. When people feel heard it has a soothing effect. Building relationships helps people connect with each other and can be accomplished by setting up and environment where people are encouraged to engage in a kind and welcoming manner rather than as adversaries. It also helps if leaders are trained in how to diffuse conflict rather than perpetuate or add to it.