The One Word to Keep Negotiation Going

How do you react when your negotiating opponent says something completely outlandish? Some negotiators walk out. Some blow up, screaming invective. Some stoop to insult. In short, they do everything but negotiate.

Keep negotiating
You can’t reach a negotiated settlement if you’re not negotiating. Sometimes you must react to the nonsense you have just been offered. But how to respond when you are actually biting your tongue?


There it is. The single word that keeps you non-committal.

The Perfect Rejoinder
The injured person has spent 20 minutes weepily telling a tale of woe. You may believe the person has problems, but they are unrelated to the cause of action under discussion. Your respectful response: wow.Opposing counsel has just literally laid on the table proof that your side has concealed evidence for more than a year and lied about it in discovery responses. You know you need to round up your team and figure out what has been going on. Your dispassionate response: wow.

Defendant insists that their personnel were nowhere near the alleged incident at the critical time. You have just uncovered video footage that shows this is false, but you are not quite ready to disclose this. Your calm response: wow.

Wow Works Wonders
A startling, emotional, or angry statement could tempt you to respond in kind. But ratcheting up the emotion index can interfere with the parties’ ability to keep things in perspective. While others around you are heating up, staying cool as you observe the dynamic keeps you in control. Wow.

3 Tips for a Successful Mediation

Assessing your case from your side’s point of view is critical. But it won’t get you far if you don’t pay attention to your opponent’s needs as well.

Here are three tips to help you move from conflict to resolution.

  1. Spend time sizing up the case from your opponent’s point of view. They are most likely to see things your way if you can pitch your case to match their needs.
  2. Mediation may be the only opportunity to direct information to the client without the attorney filter. Present information in joint session or through the mediator to appeal to the client.
  3. Assess your litigation budget—and your opponent’s. Look beyond the dollars. Before you head to mediation, draft a plan for discussing the time and energy that will be required as well as the emotional investment.

Every negotiator would love to get everything they want. That’s not likely to happen. Try to fashion a compromise that appeals to the parties’ needs.