How can I get past a “road block” in a negotiation when the other party is unwilling to take any steps to engage? When they refuse to speak and to meet with me, won’t answer my calls or return my emails. What options do I have?
THE ANSWER by Elspeth Mills Rendall and Jamie Hutchinson, ENS Negotiation Strategists:
When the other party refuses to engage on any level, take a step back and consider what is driving their behaviour. What are their hidden or unstated needs?
Remember that personal needs are the key drivers in any influencing situation. People make decisions for their own reasons, not yours. If you can identify and diagnose these (Step 1 of the ENS negotiation process), you will be better placed to develop a strategy that will open up a discussion.
If you identify what is driving the other party’s decision-making process, yet they still choose not to respond, what’s next?
Is there a “gate keeper” such as a personal assistant, or another team member denying you access to the other party? Consider your approach to this “gate keeper” and build a relationship with them. Better understanding of what motivates them and feeding these needs is a tactic that can help progress your negotiation.
A process option may be to change negotiators. This can impact on the willingness to engage. It is a useful strategy to cater for potential loss of face and minimise the perceived negative “negotiation history” between you and the other party. It can open up the opportunity to re-build the negotiation relationship.
Beyond the immediate negotiation team, another option is to find other influencers, those stakeholders with wider vested interests. Through ENS’ systematic stakeholder mapping, you can identify people who have the ear of the other party, or organisations and pressure groups with the power to persuade and influence outside of the formal negotiation itself. This subtle influencing pays dividends as others “fight your corner” without you being hit by the “brick wall” of silence.
Once again, the key is the initial step of the ENS 5-Step negotiation process to identify the “hidden drivers” that can motivate stakeholders to align with your cause.