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Here’s how to deal with an assertive negotiator

Negotiation touches every part of our lives. Relationships in business and in our personal lives are negotiated. And the skills to do it effectively can often mean the difference between getting what you want or losing out. You don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate!

In the second section of the book, How to be a Great Negotiator, written by property economist, investor and developer Neville Berkowitz, the 26 different personality traits of negotiators you are likely to encounter in the course of your negotiating career are identified. Over the next few weeks we will recommend ways of dealing with each type of negotiator.

(Courtesy of PersonalEmpowerment.co)

8 The assertive negotiator

Assertive people usually appear confident and certain. Their confidence may come from healthy self-esteem, or it may come from an inflated, self-important ego covering up a deeper insecurity. Either way, they generally know what they want in life and out of the negotiation. They tend to have strong viewpoints and opinions, and are not afraid of conflict in the pursuit of their objectives. They are often skilled debaters, willing and able to argue their case forcefully.

Assertive people are distinct from aggressive and hostile people who try to win by overpowering with anger, rudeness, or force. Assertive people usually allow the other party to give their viewpoint and make their case, before forcefully debating the merits of the matter.

Assertive people are results-driven more than relationship-driven. They tend to make decisions quickly and independently, and then proceed toward their objectives, pushing through all the obstacles and arguments in their way. They are driven, time-conscious, and controlling by nature.

If you are assertive by nature, or capable of standing “toe to toe” with an assertive, pushy, determined negotiator, it may be worth engaging in a battle of wits and wills with such an adversary. If you are not assertive, and not comfortable engaging in hard-scrabble tooth-and-nail negotiating, the best strategy may be not to engage directly in verbal combat, where you are more likely to lose than win.

An indirect and non-reactive, even passive, strategy often works well with assertive types. Don’t argue; just sit calmly, let them exhaust their energy, and wait for the storm to pass. Simply but firmly hold your ground and your position without being drawn into the complicated arguments and defences that suit aggressive types. If an assertive negotiator’s approach crosses the line into arrogance, calmly let the negotiator know that you find his or her behaviour unacceptable and that you’re willing to take your business elsewhere if the behaviour doesn’t improve. This usually catches an overly assertive person off-balance, causing him or her to become more conciliatory. And that’s when you firmly assert your demands.

If you’re a seller dealing with an assertive buyer, remember that he or she needs what you’re selling or that buyer wouldn’t be negotiating with you. Have in mind the lowest figure you’re willing to accept and simply refuse to go lower, no matter what. At a certain point, the best thing to do is clearly state your terms and stick to them, whether or not you make a deal. When you’re holding to your bottom line, remember that “no means no”. If they keep trying to get you to go lower, just say, “I can’t go any lower. Maybe you’ll find someone else who will. I’ll find a buyer I can work with to make a deal I can live with.” If they persist after that, just say firmly, “No means no.”

This has the effect of letting go of the rope in a tug-of-war contest. The assertive buyer, realising that he or she has pushed too far, will either reconsider and accommodate your terms, or leave. Being fine with either option is where your power with an assertive negotiator lies.

If dealing with an assertive seller, he or she obviously needs you as the buyer or else you would not be in the room to begin with. Allow them to bluster and huff and puff while sitting passively and respectfully quietly. Eventually they will get tired of their own voice and you can speak. Be brief and to the point stating what you want and then wait for the next storm of assertiveness to reign down on you. Keep still and quiet until it’s your turn to speak again and reinforce your earlier statement showing where your bottom line is located. At that point, if the assertive seller starts again in their assertive tone it’s now time for you to rise in your chair and state, “Thank you for entertaining my offer. I will leave it on the table for 24 hours from now and look forward to hearing from you if you change your mind”.


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