top of page
  • Writer's pictureGeurt Jan de Heus


The best negotiation tactics of hard bargainers can catch you off guard

Negotiating skills for dealing with situations as they arise at the bargaining table are always in high demand. Strategies prepared before coming to the bargaining table are one way to anticipate events during negotiations, but expert negotiators know that the bargaining style of their counterpart will impact, positively or negatively, even the best laid plans. Don’t be caught unprepared by hard bargainers, warn Robert Mnookin, Scott Peppet, and Andrew Tulumello in their book Beyond Winning.

Here is their Top 10 list of hardball tactics in negotiation to watch out for:

1. Extreme demands followed up by small, slow concessions. Don’t let a strong demand “anchor” your expectations. Be clear going in about your own demands, alternatives, and the bottom line – and don’t be rattled by an aggressive opponent.

2. Commitment tactics. Your opponent may say that his hands are tied or that he has only limited discretion in negotiating. Make sure that these commitment tactics are real.

3. Take-it-or-leave-it offers. Offers are never nonnegotiable. Try ignoring the demand and focus on the content of the offer instead.

4. Inviting unreciprocated offers. When you make an offer, wait for a counteroffer before reducing your demands. Don’t bid against yourself.

5. Trying to make you flinch. Your opponent keeps making demands, waiting for you to reach your breaking point. Don’t fall for it.

Extreme demands and few concessions is indicative of a hard, distributive negotiations mindset. This strategy sees negotiation as a win-lose scenario, and, while effective in claiming value, it is rarely conducive to building a relationship with your counterpart. An integrative negotiation strategy looks at negotiations as a potential win-win scenario in which each side gets to share some part of the value on the table. Further, this mindset sees relationships and building relationships with your counterparts as integral to process. Integrative negotiators will employ negotiation tactics aimed at creating value and bridging the gap between the parties. Commitment tactics and take-it-or-leave-it offers are part of distributive negotiation strategy and are meant to limit both a counterpart’s options as well as knowledge about the other side’s true interests.

6. Personal insults and feather ruffling. These personal attacks can feed on your insecurities and make you vulnerable. Take a break if you feel yourself getting flustered, or name their tactics.

7. Bluffing, puffing, and lying. Exaggerating and misrepresenting facts can throw you off guard. Be polite but skeptical.

8. Threats and warnings. How to deal with threats? Recognize threats and oblique warnings as the tactics they are can help you stand up to them.

9. Belittling your alternatives. Have a firm sense of your best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA) and don’t let your opponent shake your resolve.

10. Good cop, bad cop. One of your opponents is reasonable; the other is tough. Realize that they are working together, and get your own bad cop if you need one.

At the same time, while you could leverage these hardball negotiation tactics yourself, remember that making the other side hostile could create long-term problems. Knowing about these tactics and the motivations that underlie them, a negotiator can effectively maneuver herself at the bargaining table while defusing hard bargaining negotiation strategies without harming the relationship or the negotiation.



bottom of page