Containment Strategies Resolve Hostile Negotiations


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When you’re involved in a hostile negotiation, what strategies do you employ? Do you attempt to contain the hostility? Every negotiation takes on the characteristics of the people participating in the negotiation. If the negotiators display a demeanor that’s arrogant or mean-spirited, the tone of the negotiation will trend in that direction, unless mitigating circumstances are implemented to prevent such occurrences. At that point, you should implement containment strategies to alter the mood of the negotiation.

To discover how to use containment strategies in your negotiations, continue below.

What are containment strategies …

Containment strategies are tactics used to alter the mood of an irate negotiator and/or a negotiator that purports to be dismayed about a position adopted by the other negotiator. Thus, containment strategies keep a negotiation progressing down a prescribed path.

What constitutes a hostile negotiation …

A hostile negotiation can be depicted as one in which participants exhibit aggressive and antagonistic behavior that’s displayed during the negotiation.

Note: One negotiator could perceive the other as being hostile, while the accused negotiator might perceive his actions as being tough, rough, or  less than friendly, but not hostile. He may not care how the other negotiator feels about the mannerisms he displays while negotiating. If he envisions his actions as being non-hostile, that might depict a mindset that may be more difficult to alter, then someone that knows he’s being hostile and intends to negotiate in such a manner.

What strategies can one employ to contain a negotiation …

You can alienate the negotiator that’s projecting a hostile attitude from the base that supports him. That base would consist of stakeholders that have a vested interest in the outcome of the negotiation. To apply containment in this manner, you must increase pressure on the negotiator’s negative behavior to the point that it becomes too costly for him to maintain such a position. The overlying implication would be, if he continued the negative behavior that he’s displaying, he’ll lose the outcome that his stakeholders would like to achieve. By implying that his actions may kill the deal, you’ll be driving a wedge between him and his support system, thus isolating him. Once you’ve increased the level of discomfort to that degree, he should be prepared to be more amenable to your offers.

Another form of containment can come in the form of good cop, bad cop. This scenario is accomplished with your negotiation partner adopting the good cop (easy to get along with) or bad cop (difficult to deal with) role. Whichever role he adopts, you adopt the opposite role. The bad cop acts indignant and very antagonistic. If you’re playing the good cop role, at some point, excuse the bad cop from the room and offer alternative positions that the other negotiator may not find as favorable as he’d like, but he should perceive your offer as being significantly better than the bad cop. Given the two choices, the other negotiator will be more apt to accept your offer.

Containment from a defensive position …

One strategy that’s been around for centuries is the ‘attack from a defensive position’. It entails positioning your opponent with an enticing verbal and/or nonverbal position, from which he has to respond from an attacking perspective. By placing him in such a position, he becomes the one that has to go on the defensive.

Some negotiators are very adept at utilizing this tactic to alter the course and flow of the negotiation to their advantage. To guard against such occurrences and provide containment, anticipate how the other negotiator might employ this tactic and be prepared to rebuke it. In essence, be prepared to pull a double defensive move, his being the first and yours being the second.

The world looks a lot better from behind a smile. When negotiating, if you cannot get the other negotiator to manifest a smile and display a non-hostile demeanor, attempt to contain his aggressiveness. The better you are at resolving hostile negotiations, the further your negotiation efforts will take you. In so doing, more successful negotiation outcomes will await you … and everything will be right with the world. Remember, you’re always negotiating.

 The Negotiation Tips Are …

  • Some people fail to see an opportunity, until it no longer avails itself. By utilizing containment strategies, you afford the other negotiator a glimpse of the positive outcome he could achieve, if he alters his demeanor to one that is more cooperative.
  • By using containment strategies in your negotiation, you’ll enhance the probability of achieving your goals, while controlling the flow of the negotiation.
  • Used correctly, containment strategies will save your mental state of mind.
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