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Negotiating with Sharks – December 2009 Master Negotiator

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“Spectacular achievement is always preceded by spectacular preparation.”

-Robert H. Schuller

In this issue of The Master Negotiator, we will share with you three strategies for successfully negotiating with a bully, someone whose main negotiation strategy is intimidation.

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.

There are many different ways to negotiate with a shark, but the three that we outline here are the strategies that are most likely to help a challenging negotiation end with a win-win outcome. In this issue you will also find a complimentary video which expands on these three strategies.

We are proud to announce that we will soon be releasing an additional negotiation resource, the Negotiating Tactic of the Week. This mini-newsletter will provide you with an insider’s look at hundreds of strategies and tactics, and will ensure that you know more than your counterpart by profiling a specific tactic each week. If you are interested, please update your mailing profile by entering your email address and select the Negotiating Tactic of the Week.

Please feel free to contact us with any negotiation questions or article ideas. We’ll do our best to address them in upcoming issues. (peter@pbsconsulting.com)

Remember, almost everything in life is negotiable.

Peter B. Stark & Jane Flaherty


When most people encounter a shark, their number one goal 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 three different strategies that will help you do that:

Strategy Number One is designed for negotiators who represent the behavioral style of the Directors, 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.

Strategy Number Two is designed for the Amiables, who are sometimes known as the Blues. People of this negotiating type could catch the shark off guard and say, “Most people don’t feel the 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.

Strategy Number Three is to ask for it. When a shark begins to bully you, ask this person to promise you that at least once in the negotiation, they will lose it and raise their voice at you. Asking for it renders their tactic useless.

When you master these three tactics, you are going to discover that it is actually fun to negotiate with sharks. It is also important to remember that sharks tend to have less strategies and tactics in their negotiating repertoire. Because of this, when you master the ones they do use – like raising their voice, swearing or getting in their counterpart’s face – they become less effective in attaining their goals.

Click here to view a video describing these three strategies in greater detail.

Our homework for you is to go find a shark and have some fun!

We wish you great success in all your negotiations!

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