“This Is How To Overcome Tone Distraction In A Negotiation” – Negotiation Insight

“Strength does not lie in anger. But the tone of anger can lead to the distraction of strength.” -Greg Williams, The Master Negotiator & Body Language Expert (Click to Tweet)

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“This Is How To Overcome Tone Distraction In A Negotiation”

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

Two members of an investment team were discussing the price they’d pay for a property with a property owner. The first member said to the owner we’re not in a hurry to make a purchase. We’re not going to enter into a negotiation. Our offer will be what we’re willing to pay for the property, and we’re not going above it. But if you can accept it, we’re ready to proceed with the purchase right now. Before the owner could respond, the other team member said, but we may negotiate if your counteroffer is close to ours. Right then, the second member had injected a tone distraction into the negotiation. It was a distraction that could harm the team’s negotiation efforts. It would require a maneuver to regain the control the first team member had created.

Such team negotiation environments can consist of spouses, associates, etc. Don’t let this happen to your team negotiation efforts. Here’s how to overcome that.


Positioning occurs in every negotiation. It can be in the form of how one negotiator projects his persona as he enters the negotiation, or what others say about his character and personality, days, months, or years before the talks. The purpose of adopting a position is to set the tone and demeanor per how he wishes others to perceive him. It states to the opposition, and this is who you’ll be dealing with throughout our talks.

At the outset of a team’s negotiation, the team must be of one accord, viewed through a single lens of consistency by the opposing negotiators. Based on the flow of the talks and the team’s plans, team roles can appear to shift, with the veneer of rethinking being the gist for such shifts. But even then, consistency should be adhered to, because all such maneuvers must be carefully thought out and planned before a team enters into a negotiation.   

Setting Roles


Before a team begins negotiations, the designated leader must assign roles to each member. The team leader can give a member the protagonist role, that of a dissenter (no matter what the other group says, he doesn’t want to go along with it). Another member can be the appeaser (someone that wants to make concessions readily). And yet someone else can be the one attempting to control what appears to be a wild heard of disparate desires. Once roles are assigned, it’s essential to confirm each member’s understanding of his position.


There are several ways a team leader can confirm that each member understands their role.

1. The team leader can ask each member to cite their role in a one-on-one environment.

2. Once the team leader is satisfied that each member understands their role, she can have members team-up with one another to practice how they’ll interact during the negotiation.

3. Then, she can have all team members role-play the negotiation scenarios they expect to encounter during the talks.

The purpose of the preceding steps is to flush out any potential consequences of each member’s action that had not come to light before the role-play.   


Another aspect to consider when setting roles is how the team will adjust to unplanned occurrences. If chaos within your team is displayed when unanticipated circumstances happen, it could give the other team insight into your lack of preparedness. They may later exploit that weakness. To offset that potentiality, the team leader should incorporate the function of one team member to create an excuse or distraction to put the negotiation on pause.

Once the team is away from the negotiation table, team members can regroup, plan their strategy, and reengage once they’re prepared to do so. By addressing an unexpected occurrence in this manner, they can offset the possibility of having their tone shift from being in control to one perceived as a distraction that befalls their negotiation efforts.   


Now, it’s game time. The team has rehearsed, and you’re at the negotiation table. It would help if you were vigilant about the following situations.

1. The negotiation is going too smoothly. The other team could be engaged in a distraction technique to lure you into an unanticipated surprise. If you sense that’s the case, observe the tone of the opposition’s offers (i.e., open, friendly). And when it begins to change to the opposite of what they’ve displayed prior. That will be their turning point towards their ultimate goal. And be aware that they may offer several plots within plots. Thus, their ultimate goal may not be the first structure you encounter. 

2. The negotiation is going as planned. And each team member is playing their role in an Oscar performance. If this is the scenario you encounter, be proud of the preparation planning process that you and your team engaged in. But don’t let your guard down. There could still be surprises lurking in unsuspecting places.

3. The negotiation starts to buck. And it goes downhill from there. If that occurs, and there’s no discernable reason behind the other team’s actions, address the real cause of the disturbance before moving forward. And be mindful of how much time you invest in doing so. You don’t want to become drawn into a quagmire that envelops you based on sinking more time into the negotiation, from which whose value you may never recover.  

Tone Versus Content

The tone of your communication imparts the message of what’s received. And that determines how the receiver will react. Therefore, be aware of the effect that your tone has on others with whom you’re negotiating and how their tone affects your actions and responses. Also, be mindful of situations where someone uses, I versus we, language. ‘I,’ can connote the perception of a negotiator thinking he has power, or his attempt to persuade others that he possesses it. ‘We,’ on the other hand, is delivered from the perspective of shared power or position. The ‘I’ and ‘we’ nuance is small. But it has a significant impact on communications


The wrong tone of communication projected, or perceived, can be a distraction in a negotiation. Thus, a negotiator must always be mindful of their tone, intent, and how it’s perceived. Once that assembly is aligned, chances for a successful negotiation becomes enhanced. 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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