Intimidation works. It catalyzes powerful and primitive emotions, sabotaging your ability to think clearly. Usually, the side being cornered will be so aggravated, frightened or shamed that they'll simply cave in. Intimidation can also be subtle-those little patronizing gestures from the other side that work your last nerve. Because it's so personal, even seasoned deal-makers are piqued. Thus, a little self-awareness is your best early warning system. And know there are plenty of ways to outfox bullies at the bargaining table. These include:
1. Keeping cool. Above all, relax. You know your triggers. Pause. Breathe deeply. A level head is where self-defense begins. Ignore their theatrics. It may take the self-control of a saint, but don't let the confrontation escalate. It almost always turns out to be counterproductive.
2. Refocusing on the issues. Remember, you're making a business deal. Intimidation isn't the issue. Prices, services, goods, time periods and the like-these are the issues. No matter how many times you have to do it, keep bringing the discussion back to what's really important.
3. Slowing it down. Intimidators prefer to hustle you into an agreement. Don't let them. You set the pace. Tell them, "I'll think it over and get back to you." It's a graceful way to buy time to get the answers you need.
4. Asking questions. Questions are more powerful than answers, so ask away. Favor open-ended ones, the kind that can't be answered with a simple yes or no. ("Why do you think such-and-such is so important?") The answers will reveal a lot about the other side's assumptions, expertise and integrity. You'll find openings that lead to the creative solutions you seek. And of course, once you've gotten your opponent explaining and discussing, you've turned the tables; he's no longer intimidating-he's negotiating.