A Step-by-Step Guide to Negotiating With Difficult People

Negotiation is an essential part of life for anyone in a business or sales industry. To be successful and achieve your goals, you must be able to complete a successful negotiation. That is a skill that is learned over time, but certain challenges can arise, even for the most experienced negotiators. Negotiating with difficult or aggressive people is one of the hardest challenges to overcome, but effective preparation can make it easier.

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Negotiating With Difficult People

In the business world, there are many different types of people who could be deemed difficult. Some people are unable to understand and control their emotions, so they may be prone to outbursts. Other people feel the need to always have control of the situation, so they come across as domineering and may keep deals from being closed. There are also individuals who are aggressive in situations that require negotiation, which can make others feel uncomfortable or unsafe. You will encounter these people in any business or sales industry that requires negotiations for success. It is essential that you are well prepared.

Preparing for a Difficult Negotiation

There are certain times when the anticipation of a difficult negotiation can almost be harder to face than the actual conversation. Preparing for these negotiations ahead of time can help you feel better equipped to navigate them well. Here are a few ways you can prepare yourself:

  • Know your own boundaries. If you know you will be dealing with a difficult client, have clearly established boundaries they cannot cross. This may include not allowing them to raise their voice or speak to you or any teammates in an overly negative way. If these boundaries, as well as the consequences for crossing them, are communicated, it can help you ensure the negotiation runs smoothly.
  • Have backup if you need it. You do not have to face these difficult negotiations on your own. If you feel more prepared and ready for a difficult negotiation when you have a team member or supervisor with you, then do not be afraid to ask for support.
  • Ensure you are calm before the meeting. When you know a particular meeting or negotiation will be difficult, do your best to center yourself ahead of time. This may include going for a walk to calm down or taking a few deep breaths before the meeting begins.

Best Tactics to Negotiate With Difficult People

There is no way around dealing with difficult people, particularly if your line of work requires you to be involved in negotiations. While you cannot avoid them entirely, there are some practices you can put in place to help you negotiate with difficult people effectively:

  • Keep meetings private. Many difficult people may become more combative or aggressive if they feel that they are being challenged. That can be exacerbated if there are other people around. If you know that someone is difficult during a negotiation, and you have the time and space to make this possible, meet with them in a more private setting. They may be more willing to listen openly and be flexible if there is no audience. Do not, however, attempt a private meeting if you are concerned that the other person may become hostile or violent.
  • Meet in a neutral location. When a meeting takes place in one person’s space, they often feel that they have an automatic advantage. That is also true for difficult people during negotiations. If they are on their home turf, so to speak, they are more likely to feel empowered and make the negotiations more difficult. Aim for a meeting location that is entirely neutral, such as a coffee shop or a neutral conference room, rather than their personal space.
  • Offer solutions. In some circumstances, when you are facing a challenging negotiation, it may seem easier to brainstorm ideas and solutions with your client. This can be an effective practice for some, but not when difficult people are involved. If you show up to a meeting with no solutions or ideas to offer, they may see that as a sign of weakness and simply ignore any suggestions you make in favor of their own. Coming to the meeting prepared with solutions to offer levels the playing field.
  • Be assertive. Many people who are difficult to work with in a negotiation setting have very strong ideas, know what they are capable of, and believe they should be recognized and praised for their contributions. Those things are not inherently bad, but they can make negotiations challenging. In these cases, be assertive when you present your own ideas. Do not back down or shy away when the other person pushes back, but rather match them with your own strength. Many domineering people will respond to that kind of approach because they appreciate the show of power.
  • Make them aware of the consequences. This can be an effective strategy if nothing else has been working. If you are attempting to negotiate with a difficult person and they are refusing to budge, make sure they know what the consequences will be if they are unwilling to compromise. When they see that their refusal to work with you could cause significant problems for the deal, they might be more willing to compromise to ensure everyone’s needs are met.

Dealing with difficult people is simply a fact of life, particularly in the sales and business industries. Understanding how difficult people function and having several key strategies in place to help you deal with them can make the process much easier.

The Art of Conflict Resolution

One of the most effective tools to help you navigate negotiations with difficult people is conflict resolution. Simply put, conflict resolution is when multiple parties work together to solve a problem. Knowing various ways to understand and neutralize conflicts is an important skill to have, no matter what line of work you are in. It can be especially helpful in the sales industry when you must negotiate with difficult clients.

A few effective conflict resolution strategies are:

  • Practice active listening. Active listening goes beyond simply hearing what another person is saying to you. It requires you to be fully engaged with the other person. You are aware of their non-verbal cues, you can paraphrase what they share with you, and you seek clarification any time you do not understand their needs. This will help you negotiate with difficult people because it allows you to fully understand where they are coming from and not take things personally.
  • Have a well-developed emotional intelligence. If you are emotionally intelligent, that means you can understand what emotions you are feeling, analyze how your emotions are impacting the way you act, and calculate a plan to avoid negative reactions. It also helps you to understand other people’s emotions and how you can respond to them to avoid conflict. This is helpful when negotiating with difficult people because it gives you the skills and practices to ensure the situation does not escalate and become a fight.
  • Remain impartial. When you are highly invested in a deal or negotiation, it can be easy for emotions and stressors to cloud your judgment. Once that happens, it’s more likely that you will take things personally and have a difficult time maintaining your composure. If you can remain impartial, you are solely focused on the conflict rather than on the individuals involved with it. This helps you make decisions that will better serve all involved parties rather than simply meeting your own needs.
  • Use primarily “I” statements. This is the practice of framing a conflict on how you are feeling rather than anything that the other person has done wrong. These statements may include something along the lines of “I feel like I am not able to share my thoughts” rather than “You are talking over me.” This practice can be helpful when negotiating with difficult people because it does not sound like you are placing blame on them, but you are simply sharing your needs.
  • Be aware of body language. This can be part of active listening, but it is important to be aware of the messages another person may be sending with their body language. If they are stiff and rigid, it may mean that they are angry or unhappy. If they cannot maintain eye contact, then they could be uncomfortable. Recognizing body language cues during a negotiation with a difficult person can help you anticipate when they may be getting angry or aggressive. Then, you can adjust your own approach to help avoid conflict.

Regulating Your Emotions During Difficult Negotiations

Working through a negotiation with a difficult person is not an easy task. It can be stressful and cause unnecessary conflict. While having strategies to help you negotiate well with difficult people, it is also important to be able to regulate your own emotions during these situations.

Self-regulation can be a challenge in any high-stress situation. Negotiating with a difficult person can be extremely difficult because it can often feel very personal. In most cases, though, it’s not personal. That means being able to manage and regulate your own emotions during these negotiations can help you manage stress and avoid getting overwhelmed.

Here are three things you can do to regulate your own emotions during a difficult negotiation:

  1. Understand what triggers your negative emotions. Every person has certain things that trigger their negative emotions, whether it be body language, harsh responses, rejection, or something else. The first thing you will need to do to combat these responses is to identify what they are. Once you know what they are, you will be able to plan for them during a difficult negotiation to make it easier to process.
  2. Prepare for difficult emotions ahead of time. If you know what things will likely upset you during a negotiation with a difficult person, it is a good idea to prepare ahead of time. Take some time prior to the meeting to think or talk through what may upset you and how you could respond. Having this plan in place will make facing the difficult negotiation feel less daunting.
  3. Move past triggers during the conversation. This can often be the most difficult step. During a negotiation with a difficult person, there will likely be at least one thing that triggers a negative response in you, but it is important that you do not let those negative reactions derail you. Taking deep, calming breaths when you notice yourself getting upset is one way to regulate yourself and your emotions to ensure you can stay engaged in the negotiation.

No matter how much negotiation experience you have, dealing with difficult people is never an easy task. It takes preparation, fortitude, and self-regulation to be successful in these negotiations. Effective resources and training can make the process much easier. For all of your negotiation and sales resources needs, trust the team at Shapiro Negotiations Institute. Get in touch with us today.

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