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How to Handle the Negotiator Bully

How to Handle the Negotiator Bully


We all have our own negotiating styles. Some of us try to bully the other party into agreeing to favorable terms. If you’ve encountered the bully it’s because that suits his or her personality and that approach must have succeeded in the past or it wouldn’t be tried again. You don’t have to capitulate to the bully just to get away from the person. You can prepare for and negotiate with a bully and get favorable terms for your client in the right circumstances.


Ways to Handle the Negotiator Bully

In the context of negotiation a bully can be defined as someone who uses aggressive behavior and language towards the other party to appear to be in a position of power and who deliberately tries to intimidate or coerce the other party into agreeing to his or her proposed terms.

If you want to get what you need when the other negotiator is a bully don’t give in but stand up against the bully. That means being smart about preparation and the negotiation process, not copying his or her language or theatrics.


Do your homework and out think the bully

Bullies don’t care about what the other party thinks. They just want things their way. A bully may think this makes them strong, but it’s actually a weakness and a vulnerability because he or she isn’t doing the necessary work of trying to get into your client’s position to create a proposal your client will find acceptable. Do all the research possible to understand what both the party and the attorney want and how they operate. Show how your proposal is in their interests, even if they’re not smart enough to do the same.


Develop your strategy

The bully will probably want to bulldoze you into a quick agreement or may take the opposite tack, telling you how worthless or impossible your case is so he or she might state they don’t care if you settle or not because you’ll be destroyed at trial.

Don’t allow yourself to be rushed into a take it or leave it agreement. Try to find out if the party actually is interested in settling. Is their dark prediction for your case just bluster or are they simply uninterested in negotiating?

You could try to discuss the strengths of your case and the weakness of their case to judge their reaction and motivations. You could remind them of what they have to lose if the case is litigated.

You need to develop a negotiation strategy that connects what the other party needs from you and what your client needs in return. Understand the potential trade-offs and create a set of potential solutions you can put into play.


Use your knowledge

Based on what you know is what the bully says make sense? Is he or she trying to hide something or confuse you? You could clarify the situation by letting the other party know you understand the facts of your situation and their situation. Their hot air balloon, deflated by reality, may sink to the ground, making them more amenable to rational discussions.


Don’t be afraid to walk away

No agreement is better than a bad agreement. The bully is not your boss or your client’s boss. Keep your bottom line requirements in mind and be ready to wrap things up if all the other party wants to do is bully your client. If the other party won’t counter-offer or isn’t being realistic it’s time to go. If your determination in the face of their bullying shows that their tactic won’t work they may try something different – genuine, good faith negotiations.

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Steve Mehta
Steve Mehta
Steve Mehta has been frequently asked to mediate cases that involve a variety of complex and emotional issues, including elder abuse, medical malpractice, real estate, personal injury, employment, probate, and business matters. Since 1999, he has mediated several thousand cases.


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