how to deal with threats: 4 negotiation tips for dealing with conflict at the bargaining table
How should you respond when the other side threatens to walk away, file a lawsuit, or damage your reputation? Sooner or later most of us faced with threats at the negotiation table. Direct counterattacks are rarely the answer. They could launch an uncontrollable spiral of conflict. Alternatively, you might be tempted to immediately give in to your opponent’s demands, which would probably only reinforce their domineering tactics.
The Project on Negotiation recommends the DEAL approach. It allows you to redirect talks toward a focus on each other’s interests. Below you will find negotiation tips for using the DEAL method.


Negotiation Tips for Using the DEAL Method

Step 1. Diagnose the Threat

Sometimes threats come openly: “If you can’t follow through on the contract terms, I’ll let the community know what kind of show you’re running.” Other times they’re much more subtle: “You know, I’d hate for this to hurt your reputation.”
    1. It’s critical that you seek to understand what provoked the threat. Its cause could determine your response in negotiation. The first step in effective threat diagnosis is to remove yourself from the situation – physically and/or psychologically. By detaching yourself from the situation, you can calm your emotions and truly hear what the other side is saying.
    2. Next, consider the motivation behind the threat, which may identify the threat issuer as one of these types:                                                                                               The victim: If your counterpart was feeling frustrated or offended, the threat may have emerged from his basic need to be heard and acknowledged.                                         The pragmatist: They are simply informing you of the real constraints they face or the strong outside alternatives they have.                                                                      The bluffer: They may be brandishing their power due to insecurity or a desire to dominate. If so, the threat may be more ruse than reality.

Step 2. Express Understanding

The best way to handle a “victim” is to listen to his grievances, acknowledge their feelings, and apologize for their troubles. When individuals in negotiations express their emotions and tell their side of the story, they’re more satisfied with outcomes – even when these outcomes aren’t in their favor. Expressing understanding can defuse tensions and reduce the risk of additional threats but be careful not to reward call for pity with concessions.

Step 3. Ask Questions

A threat issued by a pragmatist may convey legitimate sources of power or important needs and constraints. Your job as a negotiator is to discover the realistic data in the pragmatist’s threat. The goal should be to determine the power or the constraints behind your counterpart’s threat. The threat may simply be an expression of their intention to resort to a strong BATNA, in the absence of a satisfactory offer. By inquiring about their needs and alternatives, you can determine if a zone of possible agreement exists. If so, acknowledge their BATNA, but suggest ways you might both better meet your needs at the table.

Step 4. Label the Negotiation Threat

When a threat is nothing more than insidious intimidation, your approach should be quite different. If you sense that your opponent’s bark is louder than his bite, let him know you’re onto his game. You might tell a “bluffer” – “I don’t consider threats very productive. Let’s put our heads together and come up with some viable solutions.” Labeling a threat neutralizes negative intent and boosts your sense of control.

Source: BY PON STAFF — ON AUGUST 15TH, 2022 / CONFLICT RESOLUTION, Originally published in 2013. Adapted from “How to Defuse Threats at the Bargaining Table” by Katie A. Liljenquist and Adam D. Galinsky.

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