“This Is What You Need To Deal With Indifference In A Negotiation” – Negotiation Insight

“Never allow someone’s indifference, motivate you to become biased against them. Always keep an open mind, about opening the mind of others.” -Greg Williams, The Master Negotiator & Body Language Expert (Click to Tweet)

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“This Is What You Need To Deal With Indifference In A Negotiation”

People don’t realize they’re always negotiating.

Since I’m a Master Negotiator, people ask how I deal with negotiators displaying indifference in a negotiation – those that won’t adhere to reasoning – or those that subscribe to faulty logic? My response is, it depends. It depends on the person you’re negotiating with, how intransigent they are, and how entrenched they are in their position. Thus, there’s no “one size fits all” answer to that question. But there’s a thread that flows through strings of connected insights you can use when you find yourself dealing with negotiators that display indifference. The following are the components of those strings.  

Understanding Biases

It can be frustrating to interact with someone in a negotiation when they don’t adhere to consistency. A negotiator may have one flow of logic for one situation and another if you substitute the same condition with something to which he disagrees.

To deal with such an individual, first, you must understand the biases he possesses. His indifference most likely stems from that. It’s the source of his preconceived notions. You must assess whether he’s honest about his lack of logical consistency or if he’s using it as a ploy in the negotiation – one to confuse you. If he’s using it as a ploy, you must challenge him about the tactic he’s using and threaten harsh consequences if he continues. To do otherwise opens the door to frustration.

After confirming that he’s not illogical intentionally, attempt to nudge him towards consistency. For example, you might say, let’s establish our truths about ‘x.’ Once we confirm our beliefs, we’ll use them as our gauge, the way we’ll make assessments about the offers we extend to one another. Is that agreeable? Get his agreement! And, do not continue the negotiation until you’ve received his consent. Because, if you continue without it, he’ll continue being illogical. And that may lead you to make unnecessary concessions to appease him.  

Irrational Reasoning

I recall a time when a vendor solicited my purchase of a virtual reality headset. He extolled the product’s virtues, along with what I could accomplish once I completed my acquisition and began using the headset. When I struggled to insert my phone into the headset’s holder, I discovered it wouldn’t fit. Upon reading the documentation, it revealed the headset would accept phones up to 6.2 inches. My phone was 6.4 inches.

After watching my prior actions and observing me reading the documentation, the vendor said, “Don’t worry about your phone not fitting into the headset. It’s close. You may be able to shrink your phone.” I looked at him in amazement, turned, and walked away. As I did, I thought, how in the world might my phone shrink? His reasoning was faulty. This case showed he was more interested in making a sale versus me being satisfied with the product.   

Irrational reasoning, at best, can be confusing. At worse, it can become extremely frustrating, and that can lead you to unforeseen actions (i.e., lashing out, outbursts of anger, etc.). Therefore, when dealing with someone that might put you into that state, be aware of your changing mood as that person’s irrationality besets you. It would help if your mind were clear – not cluttered by attempting to make sense of someone’s irrationality.

Therefore, when dealing with a negotiator that displays an indifference to reasoning, understand his thought process. Question the degree that his thoughts may stem from preconceived notions, biases, or something else stimulating his actions. Do this based on the current environment and what may or may not have become altered in it. Aim your attempt at getting inside his mind so you can connect the logical progression he uses to reach his conclusions. And to do that, you must attempt to think as he’s thinking. Thus, if he extends offers in the negotiation that you label as unfair biases or indifference, you’ll have insight into the thought process that led him to that point. You’ll also have more awareness about how you might counter them.    

Hidden Motivation

Sometimes, you’ll negotiate with an opponent that has hidden interests in an outcome. In reality, those unspoken interests may make him appear indifferent when, in fact, he’s acting to protect that interest. Referring back to the virtual reality headset vendor, I later discovered he’d not met his sales quota in several months, and his job was on the line. Had I known his predicament, I may have been more empathetic to his plight. And while my empathy would not have allowed me to change physics, shrink my phone, I may have been in a position to offer leads to alleviate his dilemma.

Nevertheless, after I uncovered his hidden sense of motivation, I had a greater understanding of why he was behaving in the manner he displayed during our interactions. Never discount what’s not known, heard, or said as the reasoning behind someone’s actions. Thus, the more you know about someone’s hidden sources of motivation, the greater the probability that you’ll be able to align their thoughts with yours and vice versa. Doing that will increase the likelihood that the two of you will engage in an amicable negotiation process. And that will benefit both of you.   


When engaging with a negotiator that continuously displays indifference in your negotiation, seek to understand the mental constraints gripping him. Do so to help him overcome them, instead of dismissing him as being an irrational irritant. The more you uncover unknown forces that motivate his lack of flexibility, the more opportunities you’ll have to alter his mind and perspective. While that may not be an open road to a successful negotiation outcome, it will alleviate some potential roadblocks to that 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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