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Head to Head

How to deal with difficult opponents

This story appears in the October 2004 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

To paraphrase Tolstoy, "All happy deals resemble one another, but each unhappy deal is unhappy in its own way." It's almost always about the people. Show me a smooth negotiation, and I'll show you participants who are reasonable, polite and efficient. Show me your "deal from hell," and I'll show you participants who are flaky, paranoid, hysterical, abusive and/or all or some of the above.

For whatever reason, deal making often brings out the ugly side of commerce. At the drop of a hat, parties polarize, one side vilifying the other. Principal players are overcome by fear and greed. The old business and personal traumas surface. Egos clash as the insecure become blustery, then arrogant, then insufferable.Others bargain in the present but live in the past, as they act out dysfunctional family attitudes and early childhood neuroses.

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