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Volume III, Number 3 - December 2009 ●   Contact Us  •  Past Issue Archive   ●   

An E-Publication of the Los Angeles County Bar Association
Edited by Linda B. Bulmash

This Month's Topic:  Maintain Your Cool When Faced with Collapsing Negotiations

Most of us have experienced negotiations that begin to fall apart for a variety of reasons: frustration, irritability escalating into personal attacks and threats, and miscommunication. All of this sours further negotiation. So how do you turn this situation around in a timely manner?

Although it is difficult to control your emotions under these circumstances, that is exactly what you need to do. Maintain your cool and choose to use some or all of the following: 

  1. Interrupt the process. Call for a time out that gives everyone time for tempers to cool.
  2. Explore the perspective of those seated at the other side of the table. Continually question yourself and put yourself in the position of the others to try to determine why they are behaving this way. Then you can focus on their underlying needs rather than reacting to their behavior.
  3. Paraphrase what you have heard. “What I heard you say…. Am I correct?”
  4. Inquire by asking open–ended questions that require the other side to elaborate.
  5. Name the issue and call it as you see it: “Criticizing me or attacking my client does not seem the best way to build an agreement to resolve our differences.”
  6. Ask a question directly about the behavior. For example, when someone presents a take it or leave it “offer,” respond by saying, “What do you hope to accomplish when you threaten to walk away while we still have so many issues to discuss?”
  7. Correct an impression. If others accuse you of not listening or being uninterested in their opinion, respond by saying, “I did not mean to seem uninterested. I am very interested and would like to hear more.”
  8. Divert and refocus. When tempers flare, you can respond by saying, “I think we are getting distracted. Let’s try to get back on track.”
  9. Advocate and present your own interests and needs to the opponents but frame it in terms of answering their WIIFM (What’s in It for Me).
Linda B. Bulmash, Esq.
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