Jump Starting Stalled Negotiations

By Ron Shapiro

Negotiations deadlock for many reasons.  When both sides refuse to budge, it’s time to be creative.  Here are some guidelines to get the other side talking again:

  • Start Over.  When Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev deadlocked during arms talks, Reagan reached across the table and said, “Hello, Mikhail, my name is Ron, and I think it’s time we talked about the arms race.”  This broke the tension and led to meaningful discussions.
  • Keep a Secret.  Some negotiations stall because negotiators want to please third parties (such as bosses).  If you suspect this, assure the other person that you’ll keep the conversation’s details confidential.  The negotiator won’t worry that something he says will get back to the boss.
  • Recount interests.  Don’t talk about positions – focus on each side’s real needs.  Say, for example, “It seems you’re most interested in delivery to meet your customers’ timetable.”  If the other party agrees, ask, “What do you think are my main interests?”  Highlighting the main interests, rather than side issues, helps you create room for new solutions.

Excerpted from The Power of Nice.  Ronald M. Shapiro and Mark A. Jankowski.


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