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How do you handle aggression during negotiations?

By Natalie Reynolds, Founder and CEO of advantagesSPRING

Over the course of your career, you’ve likely worked with counterparts who are respectful, collaborative and with whom you get along fabulously. Unfortunately, you’ve also most likely run into counterparts who are decidedly less pleasant to interact with, who are rude, condescending, insulting, aggressive – or all four.

So how can you achieve successful negotiations in these particular circumstances? Here is my expert advice on navigating those tricky situations:

Seek to understand

Trying to understand what’s prompting the aggressive behaviour in your counterpart isn’t easy, but it is incredibly helpful.

There are a number of reasons why a counterpart behaves in an aggressive manner. Perhaps they feel threatened, and this behaviour is their ego’s way of asserting itself. They may be under severe pressure from their stakeholders to bring back a specific result, and this aggression is a tactic used to gain the upper hand in negotiations.

It’s important to note that understanding the behaviour doesn’t mean condoning or accepting the behaviour. Tapping into your empathy, and understanding what may be driving this behaviour is important in preparing yourself for taking action to end it.

Two options for handling an aggressive counterpart:

1. Ignore it

More often than not, your counterpart is looking for a reaction from you. Do not give it to them. Do not react and do not respond to it. Their aggressive behaviour could be a tactic to throw you off your game, when they see you not reacting to it they will stop.

2. Call it out

It’s important to note, your goal in calling out their aggressiveness is to make their behaviour the issue. For example, you can do this by saying “Can we all agree to try and diffuse this atmosphere?” or “Would you like me to call a break? You seem to have a lot of hostility towards me and I would like to resolve it.”

By calling out their behaviour it gives both of you the opportunity to calm down, address the issue and then regroup to focus your efforts on achieving the best possible outcome in your negotiation.

Defusing the situation must be your goal, whether you choose to ignore or call out your counterpart's behaviour, both approaches result in a more enjoyable negotiation.

To find out more, or to discuss your recruitment needs, please contact your local consultant

Natalie Reynolds is Founder and CEO of advantagesSPRING, who are leading global experts in effective negotiation training.


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