How to Respond to a Surprise in a Negotiation

When you’re caught off guard in a negotiation, it’s normal to freeze up. After all, you weren’t prepared for your counterpart to change the deadline, take back a promise, or deliver an ultimatum. If this happens to you, try to avoid immediately jumping to a conclusion. Instead, suspend judgement, consider “I wonder what led them to say that,” and then ask at least one question. For example, if an employee unexpectedly demands a raise by saying, “I’ve been undervalued for too long,” try not to shut down the request, even if you think it’s off base. Ask something like: “Can you walk me through your thinking? What would getting a raise mean to you personally?” This kind of questioning might surface the employee’s real need — perhaps, to be seen as an important contributor — and then you could negotiate an adjustment around the employee’s visibility rather than their pay.

This tip is adapted from “When Surprise Is a Good Negotiation Tactic,” by Roi Ben-Yehuda and Tania Luna

Categories: Management and Career Tips

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