Effective Responses to Offensive Comments
Negotiation Journal, Vol. 10, 1994
9 Pages Posted: 5 Nov 2008
Date Written: 1994
One of the most difficult elements in any negotiation is responding effectively to the other side when it has said or done something that makes you uncomfortable. Sometimes a negotiator will deliberately use comments such as those listed above as a form of gamesmanship. At other times, such comments just display ignorance. Nonetheless, perceived insults, biased comments, or questionable personal statements can and do snarl many negotiations, leaving you wondering about the other side's motives and intentions. How does a good negotiator handle this king of problem? Retaliation? Letting it go? Responding Coolly?
In the heat of the moment when you are feeling flustered, it is often difficult to give the measured response you would like. All of us have had the experience of thinking of the "best line" or comment hours after the conversation has ended. But in the same way that hitting the brakes can be learned response to something unexpected in a negotiation. Negotiators need to use a three-stage process for responding to offensive comments. First, you should check your own assumptions and be sure that you are not projecting them onto the other person. Second, you can try to understand their motivation in making such a comment. And third, you choose a response to their comment with your goals in mind. The questions "Why?" can be used at every stage of this process, and is particularly important when you choose to engage the other side. By applying a structure to those comments and questions that make us most uncomfortable, we can be more effective negotiators.
Keywords: negotiation, bargaining, anger, emotions
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