8 reasons why your counterparty doesn’t want to negotiate and how you can respond.

Von Stefan Kühn

There are two reasons why a party negotiates – either it wants to improve its situation by negotiating or minimise a risk and safeguard the current status. On the other hand, there are eight reasons why an opponent doesn’t want to negotiate. Our objective is to boost your negotiating skills. That’s why we will analyse these eight reasons for you and you can prepare an appropriate response.

Reason 1: Mistaken responsibility

Your response:: Might your counterparty not be responsible for the negotiation at all? Clarify who is responsible directly or indirectly. A fresh attempt will only be advisable and promising if you can definitively clarify who is responsible because, if there are too many attempts, the topic or party will burn out.

Reason 2: Antipathy

Your response:: Research the reasons for the negative attitude towards you. Put the human element in the centre, look for common ground, change your behaviour or let another person replace you (Change the Game). Also, verify the commitment of an intermediary or hire someone who can open doors for you.

Reason 3: A lack of understanding regarding the subject of the negotiation

Your response:: Might your opposite number misunderstand the subject of the negotiation? Change your perspective, refine the topic and phrase it from the point of view of your counterparty. Dispense with specialist waffle and reduce information in the spirit of the KISS principle. Work with visualisations and offer a logistics call. This is not about the negotiation, but you can talk about the objective, form and substance of the scheduled negotiation (Negotiate the Negotiation)

Reason 4: No need

Your response:: Might your opponent be unable to see any improvement resulting from the negotiation? Remain objective, stick to the facts and criteria and point out the opportunities and threats. Do without threats and leave the interpretation to your counterparty. Incidentally, negotiating parties usually respond better to minimising risk than to increasing their profits (Risk Awareness).

Reason 5: Uncertainty

Your response: If your opponent exhibits signs of uncertainty, it’s worth taking pressure out of the topic. A lot of people say no instead of yes if they’re uncertain. Increase the feeling of ease and offer a safe platform. Provide your counterparty with a chance to talk to you in a purely advisory capacity without obligation.

Reason 6: Bad timing

Your response:: Clarify the urgency on both sides. If necessary, should a new schedule be drawn up or can the existing schedule be communicated differently? If there is an urgency, you should demonstrate and prove this. At the same time, building up pressure is advisable here.

Reason 7: Tactical waiting

Your response:: If your opponent is waiting patiently in a negotiation in order to buy time or until the topic moves in the right direction by itself, it is important that you understand the specific reason for this behaviour. Then, a reassessment may be necessary. If your counterparty is gambling or manoeuvring, put pressure on the negotiating process or adjust it so that it is acceptable to both sides. Last but not least, you can also simply withdraw and do nothing. If interested, your opposite number will then, as a rule, respond quickly.

Reason 8: Building up pressure and exercising power

Your response:: Might your counterparty want to unsettle you with seeming disinterest, influence you with excessive demands or bring you to heel with threats? Stand firm, be aware of your alternatives and reinforce these. If you want to build up pressure yourself, only point out consequences that you are also prepared to initiate.  

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Anyone who routinely develops and exercises their negotiating skills will not fall victim to those who do this!

About the author

Stefan Kühn
Negotiation expert

Stefan Kühn is a senior international negotiator, mediator and facilitator and experienced in high-risk and high-stakes negotiations in sensitive markets. He successfully conducts national and international multi-party negotiations and consults businesses, organizations and governmental bodies in demanding and conflicting situations. Stefan Kühn graduated from Harvard University and Oxford Saïd Business School and holds a Master of Science in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution and an MBA.