“How To Deal With Potential Killer Problems In Negotiations” – Negotiation Tip of the Week

“To perceive danger faster, attune your senses to its pending arrival.” -Greg Williams, The Master Negotiator & Body Language Expert (Click to Tweet)

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“How To Deal With Potential Killer Problems In Negotiations”

People don’t realize; they’re always negotiating.

As the screeching train whistle continuously shrilled in the distance, the people that heard it knew it was a warning about a problem. As the train grew closer, one individual that caught the sounds of the howling whistle said to another, this sounds like it might be a killer situation.

In negotiations, the train could be a symbol of a powerful force coming at you. The whistle could be the warning of imminent danger in the negotiation. And both could be signals that alert you to a killer situation looming close by. Do you pay attention to such signs? And if you do, do you prepare ahead of time for how you’ll address them? If not, how quick are you to switch to either a defensive position or one that might require you to go to a more potent offense? Those are vital questions that you must either have answers for or be prepared to address. Because, if you’re unable to do either, a killer problem could quickly kill your negotiation.

The following is how you can address such situations.

Gathering Intel

When you gather intel for a pending negotiation, you should seek to understand the strength of the opposition, recognize the strategy that your negotiation counterparts might attempt to implement, know who their supporters are, and what fallback position they’ll adopt when you repel their efforts. With that information, you can prepare plans to maneuver around opponents’ attempts to manipulate you. It’ll also give you more opportunities to control vital aspects of the negotiation. And while you’re in control, your negotiation counterparts will have fewer opportunities to command their forces to attack you successfully.

Marshaling Forces

When possible, don’t negotiate before you’re ready. That means, have a plan in place, know the forces against you, and have your supporters on standby to lend you assistance. A few factors to consider when determining the best time to negotiate should be, how much time does your opponent have to conclude a deal, what other entities is he negotiating with, and to what degree is he using you as leverage to maneuver others. The more insight you can gather about such variables, the more significant the chance you’ll have to strengthen your position. And that should assist in warding off potential problems that might kill your negotiations.


When assessing how you’ll avert or contend with a negotiation problem that could kill the negotiation, you must determine what you’re willing to sacrifice. In a best-case scenario, you won’t have to make grave sacrifices, but that could be nothing more than wishful thinking. So be prepared to do so. In chess, depending on the strategy or severity of a situation, a player will sacrifice his queen. He does so to enhance the possibility of a successful outcome.  

When assessing what you might sacrifice, think about what’s of most value to the other negotiator first. For that purpose, you can create red herrings. But be sure he’ll perceive them as being valuable. Also, be cautious of the fact that the other negotiator will consider using the same ploy against you.

Thus, you might ponder about how you’ll use his red herrings as weapons against him while employing them in your arsenal. And for purposes of using red herrings in a negotiation, they can be anything that has a perceived value to one side without possessing the degree of value expressed.


The way you interact with someone determines how they’ll react to you. To that point, realize you can influence the other negotiator in your negotiations by the way you respond to him. In some situations, you might project a position of strength, and at other times, it might behoove you to play the role of go-along-to-get-along.

The point is, be mindful of how you project your demeanor, at what times you present a particular persona, and where such actions will lead. The projection of your mentality in a negotiation can be an ally or foe, depending on its usage. To make yours a partner, control it, and use it strategically. And to do so is to imply that you control your temper. Because what you do and say, and thus the mentality you display, will stem from the emotions you’re experiencing at the moment of their display. 


Distractions are another concern to be mindful of when negotiating. As mentioned about red herrings, which can serve as a distraction, you must be alert to offers during the negotiation that your opponent presents to move you from one path of thinking to another. You don’t want to become caught in a state of confusion due to a lack of focus.

When presented with a potential killer negotiation situation, the less prepared you are, the higher the probability that its delivery will be successful upon you. Therefore, when you sense the sounds of pending danger, perk up. Don’t allow a stealthfully employed attack to cause your negotiation efforts to become frayed. If you do, the fraying will only lead to a more disastrous negotiation outcome. 


No matter how appealing a deal may appear, dig into an offer to determine how valuable it is, and how vulnerable it may leave you. That means you must check and double-check any follow-ups delivered after you’ve consummated a deal. Don’t think negotiation demons aren’t after you because you feel a negotiation has concluded successfully.

I recall a situation when a buyer was offered a 99% discount off of a product as compensation for one he’d purchased that didn’t serve his needs. When he received the invoice, it reflected a 90% discount. The buyer caught the mistake. Was it a mistake – or was it an attempt on the seller’s part to get a little more out of the deal? The point is, in a negotiation, you must maintain vigilance even when you think the haggling part of the talks is over. And that’s how you can contain potential problems from killing your negotiations.      


Problems always await the opportunity to kill your negotiations. But by being vigilant, avoiding distractions, gathering intel, and maintaining the proper mental balance, you can save your negotiations from the problems that seek to kill them. Once you do, you’ll be better insulated from harmful negotiation outcomes. And everything will be right with the world.

Remember, you’re always negotiating!

Listen to Greg’s podcast at https://c-suitenetwork.com/radio/shows/greg-williams-the-master-negotiator-and-body-language-expert-podcast/

After reading this article, what are you thinking? I’d like to know. Reach me at Greg@TheMasterNegotiator.com

To receive Greg’s free “Negotiation Tip of the Week” and the “Negotiation Insight” click here https://www.themasternegotiator.com/greg-williams/

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