Negotiation Tip -Dealing with Aggressive Negotiators


We all have our negotiation styles and there is no perfect or optimum style.  However certain individuals seem to think that an aggressive style will let them get their way.  So what do you do if you end up across the table from a really aggressive negotiator who is angry, a bully, or aggressive?  Here are a few ways to tame the savage beast.

First let them run on until they run down.  Don’t interrupt them just sit quietly and look at them.  If they don’t run down, then you need to bring their tirade to a screeching halt.  Say one of the following to them depending on the position you are going to take.

“You may be right in what you are saying.”  This is a non-threatening response that should prevent a further outburst.  After all, you did agree with them.  Well no, but you have opened the door to explore their point on a more rational or less emotional basis.

“You are probably right.”  This will also stop them in their tracks.  If you are certain that what they are saying is correct, then acknowledge it.

“If I were in your position, I think I would feel the same way.”  This statement is a confirmation to the other person that you heard their message, but you do not think there is any possibility that they are correct.  Follow this up with why you have taken the opposing position.  Remember that confirming that you heard the message does not mean that you agree with it.

Since you are defusing the situation here are three more points.  First do not attack the other person or their position.  This is only going to inflame them and they will go on the attack again.  Second, do not defend yourself or your stated concerns and needs.  Finally keep the dialogue going.  If you have to deal with this person, continue the discussion. What they want to hear is that they are right.  A lot of times, they are focused on one issue that they want to be right on and will give on other issues to obtain that end.  Finding that issue and trying to resolve it while gaining other concessions can help you achieve your goal.  Remember that you have as much power as they do.  If not, they would not be at the negotiation table.

If the other party persists, call a break and assess where you are and whether you can or need to continue.  Some things to think about are whether there is a personality conflict, can you change negotiators; is there an ally on the other side that can help temper this person?  Are you being gamed (good cop, bad cop)?  Is this someone you really want to do business with?

Figure a strategy, and go back into negotiations and see how it works.  If you feel that it is impossible, then start your walking away strategy that was recommended in a previous blog (

Dealing with aggressive negotiators is a challenge, but you can disarm them and still achieve the agreement you want.

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  1. Wonderful tips on how to handle “bully” behavior, Bill. I especially like the questions you suggested at the end because they get you exploring options, and as you pointed out in an earlier post, you never want to think you are without options or that you are powerless in the situation.

  2. Thanks, Bill, this is great. I often have a difficult time when in a situation where the other person is overly aggressive. Your tips will really help the next time I find myself in that situation.

  3. Bill, I think all of us have been on the receiving end of a bully at one time or another. I think the question that you ask ” Is this someone you really want to do business with?” is really significant. In one case that I recall my answer was an unequivocal “no.”

    • You really have to think “If they are this way now, how will they be in the future when we are working together?”

  4. Bill,
    I think I just need to hire you to deal with all the heavy-weights. Great tips.
    Write on!~
    Lisa Manyon

    • One advantage of that is that you are not the subject of the abuse and you can maintain the relationship (if you want).,

  5. I like this tip “You may be right in what you are saying.”
    I also often like to say “That’s an interesting way to look at it, thanks for the new perspective”

    • They are both a good way to acknowledge what they are saying without agreeing to the content.

  6. This post had some great suggestions in dealing with a harsh negotiator but I have to agree with Mary Ellen, I’d probably just have to walk away. Life’s too short to deal with people like that. 😉

    • It depends on your alternatives. Part of the equation is that both yu and the other party have invested time and energy into the current negotiation. The trade off is whether your alternative is better than what is on the table or what you can get to on the table

  7. Three solid tips to help stop an uncomfortable situation. Thanks, Bill.

  8. I like the options for interrupting their tirade. Very helpful, although it would be fun to watch them run out of steam if I had the time. Thanks for the great article!

    • You just have to be ready to jump in there with one of the three comments before they get a second wind.:)

  9. Good solid advice for handling the bully negotiators.

  10. Bill – Thanks for these suggestions. I’ve been on the opposite side of an aggressive/bully negotiator and sometimes it’s hard to figure out what to say to them.