Negotiating isn’t easy, no matter what your style is. Negotiating to get what you want takes brains and backbone. You have to think through what you want and the most effective way to get it. And you have to have the moxie to follow through with your plans. You have to go after what you want and to get it you have to be a shrewd negotiator, even while maintaining high ethical standards.

Negotiating on a mature, adult-to-adult basis is even more demanding than slipping around and trying to manipulate or trick the people you’re negotiating with.

First of all, being open and honest takes guts. It takes nerve to say "I want to play fair. How about you?" or "This is what I want. How about you, and how can we both get what we want?" You’re challenging them to meet you on your level and asking them to focus on more than their individual needs.

This can get some strange reactions because people aren’t used to an open approach to negotiating. Some people don’t want to negotiate that way, which brings me to a second reason ethical negotiations can be so challenging. Making sure that you don’t get manipulated by someone who is not so honest. You have to be prepared to run into less-than-honest bargainers, people who have their eye on the prize and have no qualms about running over you to get it.

Don’t misunderstand me. Not every person you meet at the negotiating table is going to be an unscrupulous rogue. But many people believe that a negotiation is a "me-against-my-opponent" proposition. Or they believe that the only way to win is for someone else to lose. They don’t realize there’s a better way to negotiate.

Avoiding Manipulation
Defense Tactic 1: Maintain your standards.

If a person approaches negotiations aggressively you can usually win them over by demonstrating that you’re interested in a fair deal. Most people don’t want to be enemies, they just don’t want to get ripped off. If you ease those fears they will usually drop their aggressiveness and start to work with you.

Defense Tactic 2: Protect yourself by not fighting back directl

When you meet with people who don’t want to play fair, you can protect yourself, and you don’t have to resort to trickery or manipulation to do it. If you think about it, most sharks are propelled by three basic drives–greed, selfishness and an exaggerated ego. And any of those three drives makes them extremely vulnerable to a smart negotiator.

Roger Fisher and William Ury call this approach "negotiation jujitsu" in their book Getting to Yes. Jujitsu is a form of martial arts that focuses on deflecting attacks rather than engaging the enemy. When facing an aggressive negotiator, don’t hit back.

Defense Tactic 3. Call in a third-party arbitrator.

The benefit of bringing in a third party is that they can shift negotiations from positional bargaining to bargaining based on interests. A third party can look at all sides objectively and create a plan that takes into account everyone’s interests.

Defense Tactic 4. Bail.

When all else fails–you can't persuade the other party or parties to negotiate honestly and openly, and a mediator doesn't work–abandon the negotiations, at least for a while. Maybe a deal just wasn’t meant to be.

Negotiating is a complex process, even under the best of circumstances. Every person involved in a negotiation brings to the event a different background, culture, perceptions, values and standards. Breaking through these differences can seem impossible, yet it is crucial to creating a mutually beneficial agreement.

If you can’t win cooperation, chances are you will gain nothing from the negotiations. When you encounter people who aren’t negotiating ethically, try to bring them up to your level. If the other party doesn’t respond to your attempts, be willing to walk away.

John Patrick Dolan is the author of "Negotiate Like the Pros."
He can be reached at 1-888-830-2620, or

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