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Disciplines > Negotiation > The eight-stage negotiation process > Argue

Erode their position | Strengthen your argument | See also

The process stages: Prepare - Open - Argue - Explore - Signal - Package - Close - Sustain


In the argument stage, the serious exchange of views begins. This can be uncomfortable as the goal is to strengthen your own position whilst weakening the other person's position.

Note that in a collaborative negotiation, the argument may be gentle and polite to the point where it does not seem like argument. Nevertheless, the concerns may still apply.

Erode their position

Respond to the positions and claims of their opening statements and subsequent arguments, pointing out the limitations, falsehoods and irrelevancies. Depending on your approach, your attack on their position may be aggressive, rational, empathetic or apologetic. Overall, you are seeking to refute their argument, and the way you do this will set the tone for the rest of the negotiation.

Note that erosion of their position is effective only when they feel less certain or that they have less to bargain with. Simply asserting that they are wrong may only serve to annoy them and make them more determined.

Minimize benefits to you

If they are claiming that something they have is of value to you, you can show how what is on offer is not that important or you can get it elsewhere. This is relatively easy to do as only you determine the value of what you might get.

Sorry, sir. There is little call for these at the moment.

I don't really care about how it looks. I just want something to transport the family.

Weaken their truth

When they make assertions, question them more closely. Change or challenge probabilities. Show how things they assert as always true are only sometimes (and perhaps infrequently) true. Probe for the evidence behind asserted truths. Test the reasoning they are using, then use what you discover to undermine what they are proposing as unquestionable truth.

How do you know that? Have you attended every meeting this year?

The train may be more reliable than it was, but it is still late sometimes.

Manage their needs

When they tell of the things that they want from the negotiation and you would find it difficult to give them this, show how they cannot possibly get these, or otherwise reduce what they will ask for. Show how requirements are not legitimate. Indicate how they can get what they want elsewhere. Hint that what they want is not yours to give.

I know you're seeking a bargain, but I am not allowed to discount the price.

There's no way you're going to get delivery today.

Remember also that their needs are what drive them, and if you believe that you can satisfy those needs with reasonable economy, then you may escalate these needs, telling them how important they are, increasing their desperation to satisfy them. You can exchange satisfaction of their needs for satisfaction of yours.

You're absolutely right. It is very important for you to reduce your hours.

Of course you want a decent car, sir. How could you hold your head up otherwise?

Strengthen your argument

As a counterpoint to reducing their power, you should be increasing the legitimacy and force of your own argument, showing how it is right and proper that you get what you require.

Maximize the benefits for them

Hint at what they are going to get out of the deal. Get them thinking positively about your ideas. Push their thinking out beyond having done the deal so they see how good it will be after agreement is reached.

If you get rid of this today you'll have much better space here.

Going to bed now will make you feel much better in the morning.

Strengthen your truth

Where you have stated something as true in your opening argument, add rationality and cause. Use clear forms of reasoning that show how you are speaking the whole truth, and that anything else is falsehood. Demonstrate objective evidence that proves your case. Show your impartiality by considering the (weakened) arguments against your case.

I need the extra resource to complete the project on time, as this plan shows.

I asked finance to check the numbers and they do add up right.

Legitimize your needs

Show how your needs are allowed both in the formal, legitimate sense (as appropriate) and also that they conform with social rules. Demonstrate due diligence in the research you have done.

I have spoken with Bill and Ted and they both said this was the right thing to do.

I have checked with several sites on the internet to ensure a fair price.

Repel their attacks

When they try to erode your position with various tactics, respond firmly to these attempts. Show how you know what they are doing. Turn the tactics around so they repel themselves. Turn attacks into compliments.

You're right, it seems useless. But when you look at it from the customer's viewpoint...

What is ridiculous is the price I'll accept. But only for today.

See also

Making the argument, Refuting the argument, Making the case, Handling opposition


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