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4 Ways to Neutralize Manipulative Negotiation Tactics in Any Relationship

By |March 06, 2023

The Black Swan Group teaches the power of Tactical Empathy™

Although we encourage clients to defer and subordinate themselves to their counterparts, this doesn’t mean allowing ourselves to be victimized by the other side. 

Even so, many people get it into their heads that they’re supposed to be pushed around by the other side when they’re demonstrating Tactical Empathy.

When your counterpart tries to manipulate you, they become domineering and controlling; clearly trying to push you in a direction that you don’t want to go. Ask yourself a simple question: Do you want to pursue a relationship with someone who demonstrates manipulative characteristics? If you agree to work with such a person, rest assured that you’re signing up for a lot of challenges.

The problem with manipulative tactics is that they are counterproductive. When counterproductive behavior is left unaddressed, it impedes your ability to influence.

Next time you find yourself in a negotiation with someone using manipulative tactics, use these tools to push back and disarm them.

1. Tactical Empathy®

In a hostage negotiation, hostage takers are demanding, threatening, and deadline-exploiting. To deal with these folks, you have to go overboard with Tactical Empathy®, demonstrating that you understand the pressures they face and see things from where they stand.

The same holds true in the business world. Your counterpart is under tremendous pressure, and the level of manipulation you receive is equal to that pressure. 

Instead of thinking your counterpart is a jerk, change course and try to identify what’s causing them to act that way. Use Tactical Empathy to show them you understand what the world looks like from their end of the telescope.

2. The Phases of No

At the end of the day, nobody can make you say yes. If you’re being manipulated in a deal, ditch the fear-of-missing-out mindset, stick to your guns, and don’t say yes.

Use the Phases of No instead, letting your counterpart know that you’re willing to walk if you have to without actually using the word no: 

  1. How am I supposed to do that?
  2. I’m afraid we can’t do that.
  3. That doesn’t work for us.

These three phases invite collaboration, triggering the problem-solving portion of your counterpart’s brain and forcing them to see things from your perspective.

In negotiation, pursuing a bad deal is a cardinal sin. If these three phases don’t work, it’s time to move on to the fourth: saying the word no. 

3. The “I” Message

When someone is manipulating you, and you want to let them know how you feel without being accusatory, use an ”I” Message to help them see what they stand to lose if they don’t change their behavior.

The “I” Message has three parts:

  1. When you [counterproductive behavior or action]
  2. I feel [like this]
  3. Because [reason behavior is putting relationship/agreement in jeopardy ].

When dealing with a manipulative counterpart, you might say something like this: When you ask me for work outside the scope of our contract, I feel concerned because I don't know how we are going to make this relationship work.

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4. Risk/Loss Labels™ 

Should none of these tactics work, it may be time to use risk/loss Labels™ to articulate you are at the end of your rope and the deal is in peril.

For example, if a counterpart isn’t listening and is trying to strong-arm you into paying a higher price, you might use a Label like this: It sounds like you’re willing to risk losing the entire deal in exchange for, in essence, not a lot of money. 

You want to make it crystal clear what’s on the line. 

Ready to overcome manipulative tactics?

When you’re dealing with a manipulative counterpart, you need to stay curious and identify what drives that behavior. With these tactics in your tool belt, you should be able to disarm the other side, unlocking the floodgates of truth talk that lead to deals that work for both sides.

Now that you understand how to fight against manipulative tactics, it’s time to learn how to avoid making fatal negotiation mistakes in our free guide, 5 Ways Your Sales Team is Killing Deals.

5 ways your sales team is killing deals