“How To Never Again Be Derailed By Negotiation Distractions” – Negotiation Tip of the Week

“Distractions can be the pleasures of life. They can also be the source of lost control.” -Greg Williams, The Master Negotiator & Body Language Expert (Click to Tweet)

“How To Never Again Be Derailed By Negotiation Distractions”

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

He realized that he was in a tight spot in the negotiation. And he did not like being in that position. He thought, either way, I come out on the short end of the outcome. Then he remembered a negotiation tactic that he’d read about many years ago. The highlight of the article was how to derail a negotiation by using distraction techniques. The purpose of doing so was to escape talks in which you no longer wanted to engage or be committed.

If you’ve been in a negotiation that was to your disadvantage or felt the outcome might not be to your liking, continue. You’ll discover how to use distractions to escape or benefit your position in a negotiation. You’ll also uncover tools of interruption that you can use to prevent other negotiators from using this tactic against you.   

Why are distractions used in a negotiation?

  • Distractions are used to thwart the initiative of the other negotiator – because the person with the initiative controls the flow of the negotiation for the time he has it. Someone can also regain control of a discussion by using distractions.  
  • If you need time to consider other options, you can use distractions to facilitate your needs. 
  • A negotiator uses distractions in an attempt to belabor the other negotiator’s concentration.
  • Distractions can be used to limit and confuse the options of the other negotiator.
  • They can also be used to psychologically wear down the emotional abilities of a negotiator’s opponent.
  • Distractions are also used as a tool to alter a negotiator’s position.
  • They can also be used to interrogate the other negotiator (e.g., you knew there was a price drop before, didn’t you?) Meanwhile, the conversation was about terms – the distraction was an attempt to shift topics to alter the thought process of that negotiator.

In the planning stage of your negotiation, assess how you might be distracted, and the possible reason that might be behind such efforts. Then, prepare a plan for how you’ll deal with them.

How might you be distracted?

A good negotiator may use distractions to draw your attention from a weak point in his offer, and thus cause your position to become more vulnerable. He may also use it to give the appearance that his proposal is better than it appeared. He might do that to give the impression that your options were limited.

There can be a myriad of reasons to distract a negotiator from the current path he’s on, disrupt the plan you have for the negotiation, etc. Note when someone attempts to distract you, the reason they may be doing so, and where they’re trying to take you mentally. Unless you’re able to control the distraction, don’t become distracted.   

What makes some distractions better than others?

The answer, in short, is the situation. Some situations may be direr than others. Thus, the distraction you choose to implement will determine the outcome of that situation. And that’s what makes some disruptions more potent than others.

To assess the best course of action to adopt, consider your position, the outcome you seek from using a distraction tactic, and how the other negotiator might respond. Once you have that perspective, implement your action, and observe the initial outcome. If you’re successful, note what occurs going forward. A good negotiator may affect a charade to gain further insight into your ploy. If your efforts are not successful, use another strategy to interrupt what’s occurring and see if that one fares better. 

How might distractions be used?

Distractions may be employed to position an uncertain opportunity to cast dought on that outcome. As an example, if a negotiator thought the result of the negotiation might cast him in a bad light with others, he may intentionally detract his ability to negotiate effectively. That would be the setup for him to later talk about how the process was unfair. In so doing, he’d get ahead of a potentially adverse event, while providing a reason for it before it occurred. That might also be the justification he needed to reopen the negotiation while aborting the agreement that came from the initial deal.

Protecting Yourself From Distractions

The best way to protect yourself from distractions is to understand the intent of the action. If you’re involved in an intense negotiation, and your counterpart suggest you take a break and discuss other matters, his intention may be honorable. But keep in mind that a good negotiator can also use a timeout tactic to change your mood for his purposes. Thus, you must be mindful of the current climate of the negotiation, question how it got to that point, and have an idea about how to alter it. That way, you can use the timeout to your advantage, or not accept the offer and continue plowing ahead.  

Once again, distractions can be advantageous to your position. But only if you control what occurs during the disturbance and where it leaves you when it’s over. Also, you can invent a distraction for any reason that suits your purpose. You’ll gain insight per how the other negotiator responds in that situation, which will also give you more insight into the actions he may take to thwart your efforts. That by itself will be invaluable information to use during the negotiation.


Always know your capabilities in a particular negotiation, know the environment, and know the abilities of the other negotiator. Having that perspective will help you avoid the distractions that might derail your negotiation. With those assessments, you’ll know your strengths, the other negotiator’s weaknesses, and the best time to negotiate. With that knowledge, you will have enhanced your negotiation efforts. And everything will be right with the world.

Remember, you’re always negotiating!

Listen to Greg’s podcast at https://anchor.fm/themasternegotiator

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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