How to Negotiate with Negotiators That Don’t Care

How to Negotiate with Negotiators That Don’t Care

Not all negotiators believe in fair play and some actually negotiate in “bad faith”. You may be left with the perspective that the other side knows what they are doing is wrong, immoral and not appropriate, but so what? They really don’t seem to care. This can be very frustrating. The question is why and is there anything you can do about it?

They may not care about you or your concern. They may have interests that have nothing to do with you and you are simply caught up in a bad situation. What are some examples?

  • They need to negotiate with you to have your offer as a negotiating tool with a third party.
  • They hope to learn information from you that may help them with another situation.
  • They be under pressure from others to have to negotiate with you, but they have no desire to pursue this negotiation if they were not being bullied to do so.
  • They may be under pressure to simply get out of this deal for closure to work on something else.
  • They truly don’t care one way or another, if they can conclude this negotiation in any manner including BATNA that will allow them to work on something else that they really want to focus on going forward.

The fact of the matter is you may never really know why, you only know it is very frustrating.

I was recently involved with one these types of situations where I was brought in to help my client in a negotiation. It felt like the other side really did not care. It was very frustrating. So what should you do?

Begin by keeping an open mind and help the client to remain positive even in the face of significant frustration. Ask a lot of questions. To me this is the biggest key. Caucus with your side. Ask questions with your team and come back asking lots of questions to the other party. Share what you are thinking in private. Be realistic. Don’t demonize the other side. Stay focused on the problem. Don’t be afraid to call it the way you see it, but rephrase or reframe your concerns so they don’t come off as negative. It is so easy to come in with a negative perspective. This should be avoided.

For example you may be feeling something like this

“It appears you are simply out to make an adjustment by tweaking a few items to come up with an adjustment, without really looking at whether the results make sense from a technical perspective.”

However, you may want to state something like this,

 “The rationale for your perspective appears to be loosely made based on some assumptions that do not appear to be correct based on the application of the facts applied to specific law. We would like to present some clarifying facts and on point law for your consideration.”


This was met with indifference and no real desire to try to resolve the issue. It was as if my client was being asked to negotiate with himself to provide the other side with a larger adjustment. This was very frustrating.

It is necessary to know your Best Alternative to A Negotiated Agreement (BATNA) and be prepared to withdraw if you cannot at least make your BATNA. It may also be necessary to confront the other party and let them know what you are thinking and that you don’t want to waste your time either. This can be very enlightening.

Don’t be afraid to elevate the issue to a higher level decision maker. If the other side simply is not prepared, but higher level individuals have indicated the need to have this resolved at the working level, it may be necessary to elevate the issue in management. Move slowly with this alternative as it may cause the other side to lose face, but if it is truly necessary this can prove to be a very positive initiative. The other side may decide to withdraw (that’s ok since the negotiation was not going anywhere anyway) The other side may decide to bring on a team made up of new and hopefully better members to the negotiation (this could be a positive). The other side may decide to stay with the status quo and you may decide to withdraw if the situation is bad enough.

It is important that you and your team explore of the options possible, discuss the impacts economically, environmentally and socially and then evaluate the alternatives to determine which alternative may be most appropriate given the situation. Short term and long term ramifications need to be considered. These include relationships, costs, benefits, and other impacts. In the end if the other party is not playing fair with you, you only have your integrity and reputation going forward. Do you want to end up negotiating with the other party if the other party is not going to play fair? It is up to you.

In this article by Katie Shonk from the Harvard Program on Negotiation entitled “How to Negotiate in Good Faith” she offers ideas on how to identify “false negotiators” and what you may want to consider. In the end it is important to consider all of the ramifications and make a decision that is truly in your best interests when working with “false negotiators”.

Working with others that don’t seem to want to play fair or who actually negotiate in bad faith is very frustrating. Hopefully this article gave you some food for thought on what you may want to do and how you may want to proceed when working such a party. Stay focused. Ask many questions and in the end discuss alternatives with your team on how you may want to proceed. In the end you can decide what is best for you and your team.

Michael Gregory, NSA, ASA, CVA, MBA is an international speaker, that helps organization de-escalate, resolve conflict and negotiate winning solutions. Mike is dedicated to making individuals, organizations, thought-leading entrepreneurs and executives more successful. Michael’s books, including The Servant Manager, How to Work with the IRS, Second Edition and his most recent book, now also available as an eBook, Peaceful Resolutions are available at this link.  On point resources are available online at and check out the blog. Contact Mike directly at or call (651) 633-5311.

About the author

Mike Gregory is a professional speaker, an author, and a mediator. You may contact Mike directly at and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 12 books (and co-authored two others) including his latest book, The Collaboration Effect: Overcoming Your Conflicts, and The Servant Manager, Business Valuations and the IRS, and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]