Weekly Negotiation Tip: Overcoming Opposition

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Remember that the other side’s team may be trying to drum up support for their objections even if they aren’t physically present at the table, and account for that when formulating your response. A common tactic for anticipating and preparing for counterarguments is to “hype” them so that they seem more important or urgent than they actually are. Following these guidelines will help you respond effectively to objections during negotiations.

During my years of negotiating, I’ve heard and dealt with tens of thousands of objections. Information about the other party, such as the presence or absence of silent partners, the presence or absence of foils who might be aligned with your negotiation opponent to perform nefarious functions, the demeanor of the negotiator(s), and the culture of the negotiator’s organization, should inform how you approach objections. During a negotiation, such understandings, along with the ability to read body language, will lend credibility to the person making objections. That will help you determine whether an objection is legitimate or just a distraction from a more compelling argument.

The first step in responding to an objection is determining whether or not to do so. You should pay attention to the other negotiator’s nonverbal cues to determine if he really wants this topic discussed. If he makes such a request in a timid manner, for example, or if he looks through you as if he’s in a daze, then you should take those cues as indications of his true feelings. Consider how likely it is that these actions are merely ploys in each situation.

He is intent on what you are saying because he is looking at you. A friendly or relaxed tone can be communicated through a smile. An angry expression could mean that he means business, or that he wants you to take his request seriously.

If he seems to be looking right through you, it could be a sign that his mind isn’t on the task at hand and that he’s just testing you.

If he makes the request in a hesitant way, it may give the impression that he lacks confidence. He could be gauging whether or not you’ll take advantage of his submissive nature.

During negotiations, it is important to get the other party to list all of the issues they have. One of your objectives should be to bring them into the open. To do this, ask him what else is bothering him. If necessary, inquire further as to the basis for his objections. Take note of the hints he gives you through his body language and other nonverbal cues, as described in Step 1. It will give you an idea of where he wants to take the negotiation if you do this.

After you’ve learned why and how he values bringing up his concerns, ask him to rank them in order of importance. Then, you should try to solve a problem that is lower on his list of priorities to see if it actually is more important to him. Combine this strategy with your desired negotiating outcome. Maintain this course of action until the negotiation is successfully settled.

It’s important to do your homework before entering into any kind of negotiation. This is especially true when answering criticisms. By following the aforementioned advice, you’ll be in a stronger position to resist the arguments that would divert you from focusing on what really matters. From there, you’ll be in a better position to zero in on the most significant concerns that will have an effect on the negotiation, and then the world will be a better place.

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