What strategy is in order when one encounters a negotiating opponent who has clearly abandoned common sense? Their degree of being unreasonable amazes you.
This is another one of those good new/bad news situations. The good news is that there a multiple options available. The bad news is that they rarely work. It’s really tough to overcome situations where nonsensical posturing dominates one’s actions.
But the good news options are worthy of review and implementation. Each situation is unique and we’re often surprised at what might work.
When you have that unreasonable (nonsense) party to negotiate with:
1. Avoid showing frustration or becoming confrontational. It’s our natural reaction, but it only makes things worse. Keep your cool. Over reacting only reinforces your opponent’s position.
2. Show empathy and even muster understanding. Phrases like, “I can see how you’d feel that way.” or “It’s natural that you’d have that concern.” Maybe they just want their position recognized and their fears responded to without confrontation judgment. This will better position you to inject alternative positions and information with credibility.
3. Call on a third party! While sometimes this party is difficult to identify and involve, it is by far the most effective technique. Having someone else play a listening and counseling role can be significant to counter nonsense positioning. You might want to converse with this third party privately (without the unreasonable party) and later let the third party talk privately (with you) to the unreasonable party.
If all else fails, walk out. Break off negotiations and try to pick it up at a different time, at a different place with other involved. It’s one of the toughest negotiating situations and they are not always winable.