This is when you should walk away from a negotiation

A man walking away on a narrow boardwalk with tall sea grass on either side.

When is it time to walk away from a negotiation? In short, when a trusted third-party advisor counsels you that is time to let it go.

  • When mediation is not an option.
  • When you are focused on sunk costs to recover rather than pertinent information now.
  • When your focus is on fairness rather than objective criteria.

There are many reasons why negotiations fail and why collaboration may not work. After all collaboration is hard. If the other party does not want to collaborate that pretty well ends the reason for trying to go forward.

When a trusted third-party advisor counsels you that it is time to let it go

Sometimes the parties are so vindictive towards one another there is little if any trust. Anything and everything stated is taken with suspicion. One party may be out to punish the other party rather than negotiating in good faith. There can be an obsession to simply cause harm to the other party rather than rationally looking at risk versus reward.

When this is the situation, a trusted advisor (not necessarily the attorney’s representing you that may continue to collect fees if the conflict continues) can help you look at the situation more objectively.

Mediation may be an appropriate alternative

Another alternative is for mediation. An evaluative mediator that is an expert in the area who can work with both parties listen to their arguments and provide insight on what may happen if the case proceeds to litigation or arbitration. A facilitative mediator can work with the parties to facilitate the issue at hand as a true neutral helping the parties to reach a mutually acceptable conclusion each can live with going forward. A transformative mediator works to transform the relationship between the two parties rather than focusing on the issue at hand.

Realizing sunk costs are sunk

When a party has put a significant amount of blood, sweat and tears into something, there often is significant remorse if those costs cannot be recovered. This is the case with a drop in home prices or for those who refurbish antique cars or hot rods. There is a labor of love that goes into this process as well time and money. This may be very personal. However, the current market dictates what the price may be. This may be a hard pill to swallow. Still the sunk costs are sunk and it may be time to deal with the reality of the market.

There are times to just let it go

In a negotiation as with other things in life, it can be very hard psychologically to let it go. Life is not fair. That is a reality sometimes. Realizing this can make a real difference in a failed negotiation. Those that practice mindfulness know that letting it go at the end of the day through prayer, refection or meditation have much healthier lives. This is easily said but can be very hard in practice when the issue has become an obsession. This can result in destructive behavior. As stated above in the first point an appropriate approach may be to seek out a trusted advisor that can help you sort out this situation.

A final observation

In the end the decision is up to you. Many times, if we change our own perspective and listen there may be an opening to work towards reconciliation. However, you cannot push a rope. You can only pull a rope. If the other party is not receptive, cut your losses and walk away from the negotiation.

Contact me to speak to your group or consult with you. Check out my website, books and content. I am a Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court and an international speaker. I speak on how to take advantage of the collaboration effect TM enhancing relationships, resources and revenues. My service areas are: business to IRS, business to business and within businesses. I have written 11 books including The Servant Manager and Peaceful Resolutions. I may be contacted directly at and at (651) 633-5311. [Michael Gregory, NSA, ASA, CVA; BS, MS and MBA]

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]