“How To Deal With The Most Difficult Person In A Negotiation” Negotiation Insight

“Dealing with a difficult person is a matter of perspective – yours and theirs.” -Greg Williams, The Master Negotiator & Body Language Expert (click to Tweet)

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“How To Deal With The Most Difficult Person In A Negotiation”

People don’t realize they’re always negotiating.

We’ve all been there – dealing with a difficult person in a negotiation. In some cases, the challenge wasn’t that difficult. The person may have mildly acted out. His efforts may have been to gain momentary attention to those on his team as relevant. You rebuffed him, and he melted back into an unimportant role in the negotiation.

Then, there were the formidable challengers, the negotiators that were rambunctious illogical, and rude. They were difficult people that made your negotiation efforts very challenging. How did you handle those situations in your negotiations? Do you wish you had better insights to deal with a difficult person? Continue, and you’ll gain a greater understanding of how to deal with a difficult person in a negotiation.

What Makes A Person Difficult?

The motivation that drives someone in one direction can be the stimuli that cause another individual to move differently. Therefore, you must become tuned in to what’s stimulating someone to adopt a particular action. Before you can do that, you must be able to identify those sources.

Identifying Sources Of Difficulty

Have you ever encountered someone that appeared to be formidable, only to find out later his positioning was a façade? When you challenged his position, he may have puffed up his emotional chest to embolden his perspective. And then, when you continued your challenge, he showed his façade to be what it was, a sham. It was a pretense he quickly disassembled once he realized he could not use such tactics to deter you. And then they’re those that have the opposite action at both ends. Some people will dig in their heels the harder an opponent resists, and some will be less resisting. The point is, you must know what you’re dealing with – and there are many factors to consider in making that assessment.   

Factors To Consider

1. Something To Prove To Himself

This person may be motivated to increase his perceived self-worth or outward display of it. It may stem from a less than stellar performance in his past negotiations where the other negotiator got the better deal.

To the degree you can, help this individual see himself in a brighter light. You can do that by giving these negotiator types concessions that don’t hurt your negotiation position. Your balancing act becomes playing the role of a mildly tough negotiator. You must do this while not appearing too severe and letting your opponent believe he’s winning points from you.  

2. He’s Under Pressure To Produce Outcomes

This type of negotiator may be under the threat of losing his position, prestige, or outright prominence if he doesn’t obtain a specific result. While this individual may bear similarities to the person with something to prove to himself, this individual type has the added pressures of outside forces motivating his actions. That can make him increasingly more challenging.

To pacify his posture, find out who’s behind his actions and to what degree you can honestly assist him. Make this your first act. If his handlers are pushing him too hard to obtain an outcome, one detrimental to your position, consider withdrawing from the negotiation. While this will ratchet up the tensions in the talks, you’d also be sending a message to his handlers that their negotiation demands are too high. Thus, you’d be emitting two statements with one message. After that, observe if a softer approach appears. If so, you’ll be in a better position from which to continue the negotiation.

3. I know that!

This personality type is someone that claims to know just about everything. When you present your rebuttal, the other person will state, I know that. Meanwhile, he has a problem accepting and adopting your offer or premise because internally, he’s defending his position of knowing it all. And that can make him difficult to deal with during a negotiation.

To best address this individual, get him to state his position first. From that information, highlight what the two of you can build on. Push the envelope until he begins to push back hard. Then, remind him that the thought was his – you’re just following the path of the excellent offers he made. If you position yourself appropriately, he’ll have a tough time refuting your claim. After all, to do so would mean he’d be arguing against himself.

The shift in style and substance of difficulty in dealing with people can be stark. To that point, there can be many more personality types that you’ll encounter in a negotiation. And that’s why you must always be adaptable to the kind of individual you’ll be addressing. To use a one-size-fits-all approach is to doom your efforts before you begin.


You’ll always have to deal with difficult people at points in your life. The more insight you have about doing so, the less challenging will be your interactions with them. That’s to say, during a negotiation, you will encounter a difficult person from time to time. There will be degrees of difficulty embedded in each situation. That’s why you must know how to confront a challenging individual based on the characteristics he displays. Identifying his attributes will be the starting point from which to assemble your plan to deal with him. That will be your roadmap to a better negotiation outcome. 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://themasternegotiator.com/greg-williams/

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