This tactic is one of several tactics we recommend you never use. Honest, credible negotiators don’t need to use this tactic. However, there will be times when this tactic will be used against you, so you need to be prepared with the counter.
Summary: Using unpleasant or insulting behavior to intimidate a counterpart.
One of the most challenging counterparts to deal with is a shark. Shark-like behaviors include yelling, screaming, swearing, or fist pounding. The tactics sharks and bullies utilize are usually successful because most people would rather give in and retreat—with their shirts still on their backs—than fight.
A team of union employees is negotiating a contract with management. One of the union representatives starts yelling at the management team whenever he does not appear to be winning a deal point. His behavior intimidates some of the managers, who are tempted to ask their representative to give in rather than having the union member continue making a scene.
The most effective way to deal with a shark is to get closer to him, not to retreat. If you show that you are not intimidated, his bullying behavior becomes useless.
In the scenario above, management’s representative has four possible counters:
- He could get up, walk out, and never come back.
- He could say something like “Most people who negotiate with us do not feel a need to yell, swear, or pound their fists. I wonder why you feel a need to act this way.”
- If he knows his counterpart to be a bully, before the discussion even starts, he could say, “I have been hoping all week that you will yell and scream like you usually do. Do you promise you will do it today?”
- Finally, if he is really confident and wants to have a little fun, he could say, “You know, you frustrate a lot of people when you yell and swear, but it kind of excites me. I love people of passion! Will you do it again?”
Using these counters takes confidence, but if you use them well, a bully may yell and swear at others but, most likely, will not yell and swear at you.
Have you used or encountered this tactic in your negotiations? If so, how’d it go?