Negotiating with a Bully, Shark or, Jerk… What Should You Do?

Based on our research from seminars and training on negotiation skills, we have learned that the most difficult person for many people to negotiate with is a bully, more effectively referred to as a shark in our book, The Only Negotiating Guide You’ll Ever Need.

When most people encounter a shark, the number one goal that jumps in front of them is to get away from the shark. No one likes to deal with a jerk. The problem is, to get away from a shark in a negotiation, many people tend to give in. It is a simple strategy: give the shark, bully or jerk something they want and then GET OUT.

The problem with this strategy is that this is the worst thing you can do when negotiating with a shark. Giving in only rewards the shark and increases the chances they will rely on bully tactics the next time they negotiate with you. The best strategy is to get closer to the shark. We have four different tactics that will help you do that:

Tactic Number One is designed for negotiators who represent the behavioral style of the Directors, Drivers and who are also sometimes known as the Reds. When these types negotiate with sharks, we recommended leaning forward in the table, or taking a step closer to the shark if you are standing and saying something like, “John, most people get frustrated and intimidated when you raise your voice…but I need you to know something – it kind of excites me. I love working with people who have passion and you have it. Buddy, give me a hug.” The key to this tactic is to tell it like an Amiable would.

Tactic Number Two is designed for the Supporters, Amiables or Blues – In this situation, people of this negotiating type could catch the shark off guard and say, “Most people don’t feel a need to raise their voice at me, but you do. I am curious: why?” Most likely the shark will not even answer your question. Since they don’t want to answer your question, they probably will not use the bully tactic on you again.

Tactic Number Three: Ask for it. When the bully comes into the negotiation, ask them to promise you that at least once in the negotiation, they will lose it and raise their voice at you. Asking for it renders the tactic useless.

Tactic Number Four: Walk away. This is what many people do and we don’t recommend this – it indirectly rewards the shark’s behavior. In fact, some sharks are actually hoping that you walk away so they can also use that against you later in the negotiation.

When you master the first three of these tactics, you are going to discover that it is actually fun to negotiate with bullies or sharks. Bullies and sharks tend to have less strategies and tactics in their negotiating repertoire and when you master the ones they do use – like raising their voice, swearing or getting in your face – they become less effective in gaining their goals.

So our homework for you is to go find a bully, shark or jerk and have some fun!

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