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Dealing with Deadlock

Screen Shot 2019-08-08 at 10.55.33 AMThere comes a time in many negotiations when progress halts and deadlock ensues.  Several things happen when deadlock happens and if you know what they are, and what to do about them, success can be the result. And we all like that, right?

One problem, of course, is when people involved in a negotiation become unmotivated. In a world where buyers want to buy and sellers want to sell, if one doesn’t. THAT can be a big issue.

Deadlock is a different scenario – the desire to consummate the transaction is there but other emotional factors interfere with attaining the objective. Some factors are:

  • As mentioned:  an unmotivated party
  • when parties can no longer envision a win/win outcome
  • It can be an emotional response to a demanding position or unyielding personality
  • Can occur if negotiators haven’t ‘framed’ or pre-positioned the negotiation properly
  • Will occur when one party walks away or issues a “take it or leave it” ultimatum
  • Tempers and egos are usually involved
  • One of more negotiators lack creative solutions

The biggest reason for deadlock, however, is that the parties involved forget their motivation and stake out positions. When focusing on motivation, win-win is always possible. More than likely, we can both meet our needs and/or goals. When we stake out positions, however, we go into the world where the negotiation becomes win-lose, lose-win, or worse, lose-lose.

So how do we end deadlock without having to walk away from the deal? Every situation is unique, but here are 7 methods to help help construct the way out of deadlock.

1. Quell your adversarial urges. We’re looking for mutual interest, mutual motivation here. Creating the win-win takes a partnership, not a fight.

2. Don’t counter-propose, reframe. Instead of fighting their idea, look at a way to get them to think about the situation differently. Maybe bring in new information, a different negotiator.

3. Build on their ideas. If every time I say right, you say left we have an issue. Explore ways to become partners in the process.

4. Break down the problem. Any time we can resolves smaller issues, the bigger Ones might fall into place.

5. Hypothetical bargaining. Explore situations by asking questions like, “what do you think your people might say if we said this:”   OR  “I’m wondering how you might respond if we proposed this…..” It gives you an opportunity to try things out without commitment, sort of like going “off the record.”

6. Take a time out. Sometimes a negotiation just needs a break.

7. Finally, the obvious: it might be time to walk away. It might be time to explore your BATNA, your best alternative to a negotiated agreement. That, my friends, is for another day.

Deadlock is tough. The next time it happens to you, take a stop back, ponder how you got there, and look for the path out. Questions or comments?