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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 oneanother, but each unhappy deal is unhappy in its own way."It's almost always about the people. Show me a smoothnegotiation, and I'll show you participants who are reasonable,polite and efficient. Show me your "deal from hell," andI'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 sideof commerce. At the drop of a hat, parties polarize, one sidevilifying the other. Principal players are overcome by fear andgreed. The old business and personal traumas surface. Egos clash asthe insecure become blustery, then arrogant, theninsufferable.Others bargain in the present but live in the past, asthey act out dysfunctional family attitudes and early childhoodneuroses.

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