Break the deadlock and move forward!

Negotiations.jpgAn impasse or deadlock in negotiations is not uncommon. An issue or condition that neither side seems able to agree upon brings the entire negotiation to a grinding halt. SmartProcurement wonders what a negotiator can do when faced with a deadlocked negotiation. Are there techniques which can be used to break the deadlock?

Andrew C. Hillman, Director of Commerce Edge Academy and SmartProcurement editorial board member, offers six techniques that can be used when dealing with deadlocked negotiations, reprinted with the kind permission of Supply Management.

1.Take a break: Taking break, whether short or extended, can be one of the most powerful ways to break a deadlocked negotiation. A few hours may be all that is needed to recharge batteries and see a new angle with which to address the impasse.

2.Change the setting: The negotiators may have been negotiating in the same room for many hours. Changing the setting may give both sides the feeling that a new round of negotiations has started. Old assumptions may be put aside and a fresh perspective may be just what is needed to get the negotiations back on track.

3.Change the negotiator: The negotiation may have run into a deadlock because one or more of the negotiators who is involved in the discussions just can’t find a different way to look at the situation. Switching out the negotiator may be just what is needed to move the discussions forward.

4.Change Negotiation Levels: Often a deadlock is the result of the negotiators not having the authority to suggest alternatives. Bringing in more senior negotiators, who have the authority to suggest alternatives, will help get the process back on track again.

5.Increase Transparency: Each side has its own reasons for not moving on a deadlock issue, and may be based on the information that they currently have. Being more transparent with the information you have and laying this out on the table may sometimes result in change; the other side may learn something they didn’t know before, which may be just what is needed to get the negotiations on track again.

6.Say “Let’s go for a Win-Win”: This is a great way to communicate to the other side that you wish to find a workable solution that benefits both sides. This may create the needed spark for the other side to find ways to work around the deadlock.

If you have exhausted all of your avenues and still feel that you are unable to reach an agreement, then quitting the negotiation allows both parties to go away and re-evaluate their positions. The side that suggests a termination or adjournment may retain the higher ground in terms of any future renewal of negotiations. If the deal is important enough, both sides will probably return with some new ideas.

If you have achieved your original goal from the negotiation, then don’t make the mistake of continuing to negotiate. “A negotiation is like climbing a mountain: once you have reached the summit the only way is down. So, leave as quickly and courteously as possible,” says Hillman.

For more information on the Commerce Edge Academy or negotiation problems, email Andrew C. Hillman at

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