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Let's Play Hardball!

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04/30/2013 03:19 PM

People tend to either love it or loathe it.  We are all familiar with the phrase, peppered in movies, TV, books, etc., that when things get tough the protagonist declares, "Let's play hardball!"  

We tend to love it when our or the hero's hand is forced and playing hardball is the "only" remedy for the dilemma.  Oppositely, we loathe the first pitcher of the tactic, appalled that anyone would stoop to such a slimeball level.  Over the next few entries, the blog is going to identify specific hardball tactics and ways to deal with them.  For this first entry though, 12 general strategies to respond to hardball tactics are briefly introduced.  Following entries will identify specific hardball tactics and will employ some of these responses directly to the tactic.

When faced with a hardball negotiator, one or a combination of the following can help:

1.  Fight Fire with Fire:  Employ the same or similar hardball tactic the other party introduces.

2.  Ignore:  Ignore the hardball tactic as if it was never used and continue to negotiate.

3.  Identify:  Verbally label what hardball tactic the other party is using, such as "I see you are doing. . .".

4.  Acknowledge the Tactician's Beliefs and Opinions:  Respectfully acknowledge the beliefs and/or opinions that the tactic's user is trying to convey by using the hardball tactic.

5.  Kill with Kindness:  Kindly speak with the other party using the party and use charm, etc. with an offer to continue negotiations without the hardball tactics being used.

6.  Laugh it Off:  Use humor, such as a story or metaphor, to deride the hardball tactic and in a way that permits negotiations to continue.

7.  Call Time-Out:  When a hardball tactic is used, take a time-out.  Permit the other side some time to realize how the tactic may jeopardize the negotiation.  Then return to the table.

8.   Beat Them at their Own Game:  Play the hardball game with the other party, but do it better.  Of course, make sure you can play it better or do not play at all.

9.  Stay Strong:  Respond to the hardball tactic by continuing your efforts in an Interest Based/Integrative Negotiation.

10.  Play the Field:  Moved to other aspects of the negotiation and work towards a deal with the hope that momentum from agreement on other issues carries over to and may defuse the hardball demand.

11.  Negotiate a New Process:  State that the current process is not working and you would like to try again under new circumstances.

12.  Add or Change Players:  Bring in or remove those involved in the negotiation to remove the hardball players or to fight fire with fire.

You can employ any number together or alone.  Often times the response strategies should be combined.  A good rule of thumb is starting with one option from 1-7 and then follow it up with one from 8-12.  Next entry will start the introduction of common hardball tactics and then will employ the strategic responses that work well.

Have any other suggestions, then please leave a comment.

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