Recall when you were a young child gathered with your friends. You’re all in deep discussion about what game you’ll play together. Timmy suggests dodge ball, Susie offers a board game, and you too like the board game idea. Thus, your and Suzie’s democracy votes board game, while Timmy angrily refuses. Eventually, Timmy gives you the ultimatum, “if we don’t play dodge ball, I’m going home!” It’s a temperamental withdrawal tactic that people continually use throughout their lives – usually with a little less immaturity.
This is where your counterpart, often dramatically, will exit the discussion hoping you’ll fear a no-deal or no-conclusion and make a concession just to bring them back to the table. By doing so, they gain a concession without giving one. You’ll often see a hasty change in demeanor and location, and hear a “fine then…” or “this is too much…” or “this is ridiculous…” or “we’re getting nowhere…”
Consider the following techniques to manage the Withdrawal Technique:
- Use a Hypothetical. Let’s say someone says something like, “I have told you that I do not think that I can get this proposal agreed to by my Board, so I am going to have to stop these discussions entirely.” While this sounds like a Withdrawal, the fact that the other side provides a condition regarding getting the proposal “agreed to by the board” provides an indication that the withdrawal may not be a withdrawal. To test the other side, you could ask: “Hypothetically speaking, if you were able to get it past the Board, would you be willing to continue the conversation?” If the other side agrees to continue the discussion, then you have prevented the Withdrawal.
- Offer Mutual Concessions. Rather than making a one-sided concession just to get the other side to the table, propose a resolution where each side makes a concession. This approach gives the other side a potential reason to return, but it does not provide them with a unilateral gain just to bring them back to the table.
- Focus on Previous Progress. Rather than conceding to get the other side to the table, try to get the other side to agree that there has been substantial progress made in the past and that momentum may help remind them that although there is frustration at this point, the past progress you have made should justify that the other side not just walk away at this point.