For the last three months, the two teams negotiated fiercely against each other – they were vicious – they lost the pretense of civility after the first month. At times, flared tempers had driven them to cruelty. Then, out of frustration or despair, the lead negotiator of one team said to his counterpart, in an extremely cruel tone, either you accept our offer within the next three days or we’ll leave this negotiation and never return! With that edict, time was weaponized. He’d unleashed a ticking time bomb that would blow the negotiation up unless someone defused the situation. And, the way he made his pronouncement left him no wiggle room to save face.
How do you use time to advance your negotiation position – it’s one of the most precious commodities a negotiator has. The following thoughts are ideas about how you can use time to enhance your efforts.
Some negotiators attempt to use time to create a sense of urgency (e.g. sale ends tomorrow, get it now – I only have ‘x’ amount of time to conclude this deal). In those situations, its use is an attempt to force the opposing negotiator to take immediate specific actions. The challenge is, what to do if the action sought doesn’t occur by the stated deadline – you’re left in a weakened position if you must present a lame excuse for why the deal is still available. Unless you’re ready to confront the consequences, don’t make hard-time declarations like the leader of team one.
When you use time deadlines to create a sense of urgency, leave yourself wiggle room to escape if your demands go unmet. To do that, instead of stating a hard deadline (e.g. the sale ends tomorrow) state a softer one (e.g. the sale is ending soon). The sense of urgency is not as great in the second situation – but you’re less likely to back yourself into a corner.
Overcoming Imposed Deadlines:
Deadlines can lead a negotiation to a slow death. Thus, you must be careful when they’re issued. When confronted by a time deadline –
- Watch your time – Be mindful of the time you invest in the negotiation. Psychologically, the more time you spend negotiating, the more likely you’ll be to stay engaged. That can make you more susceptible to falling prey to time constraints. If you don’t think the negotiation has redemption, exit it. And do that sooner versus later.
- Control emotions – When negotiating, the more you control your emotions, the more control you’ll have of the negotiation. Time is a factor that weighs on a negotiator’s mind. Thus, to combat it, control its perspective and the emotional stress it places on you. Never let time go unobserved – that’s a factor of control.
- Have a backup – You can relieve pressure when you have alternative options – having them can be the release valve to the pressure of time. If you have alternative options and you suspect the other negotiator may be weaponizing time, don’t expose your backup plans (e.g. if I can’t get it from you, I can get it from the other dealer – and it may be less) – Doing that may momentarily stun the other negotiator but you will have also given him another point to attack you (i.e. finding out how viable your backup might be). If need be, let his deadline pass and see what he does. He’ll expose his strategy by disclosing how sincere the deadline was.
In every negotiation, negotiators seek actions to control their counterpart – weaponizing time is one of those actions. To be more successful in your negotiations, be observant of time, know what to do when you’re confronted by time deadlines, and be cautious when issuing them. Time is a negotiator’s precious commodity, use it wisely… and everything will be right with the world.