Greg Williams

By Greg Williams

How to Stop Crazy Negotiators from Killing Negotiations

How to Stop Crazy Negotiators from Killing Negotiations 150 150 Greg Williams, MN, CSP

“To stop crazy negotiators from acting crazy, preempt them before they do so.” -Greg Williams, The Master Negotiator & Body Language Expert

“That #negotiator was crazy. He made offers and then took them back. Worse, when you mentioned it, he acted like he didn’t know what you were referring to. I thought his antics would kill the #negotiation. How did you learn to deal with such crazy negotiators?” – said a junior member of a negotiation team to his team leader.

Everyone has encountered an experience such as mentioned. You engage in a negotiation assuming the other negotiator will act rationally. And instead, that person risks killing the negotiation because of his craziness. Such antics can leave you wondering if you’re dealing with a sane individual, someone that’s attempting to use ‘crazy’ as a tactic, or someone that’s just full of buffoonery. In either case, the following information will give you a format for dealing with such people.

Form of Communication:

If based on prior behavior, you believe you’ll be negotiating with someone that’s erratic, put as many components of the negotiation in place before sitting at the negotiation table. You want to leave as little to chance as possible. To do that, consider using written communications to outline what will be negotiated and to set the conduct boundaries before agreeing to meet. He may act unreasonably face-to-face. But if you’ve set prior parameters, you can point to them to illustrate when he’s out of bounds.

Team Environments:

When dealing with an opposing team, the dynamics can be a little more daunting. That could be due, in part, to the team’s leader not having the control to manage it or any number of other variables.

Nevertheless, if you sense irrationality due to inner bickering amongst the opposing team, consider a divide and conquer strategy – play the strongest against the weakest and the weakest against the strongest. To do that, lend more credibility to an offer made by a weaker member – they should be speaking with one voice but remember, they’re bickering. You’re endeavoring to get the team to bicker more with one another to sow discontent.


When dealing with an individual, you need to know more about the forces that are motivating his actions. As an example, he may have been told to close a ridiculously difficult deal or lose his position with the organization. He may have inferred that he’d get a long-awaited promotion if the deal is within certain parameters. He may also be the setup for the next phase of the negotiation and not even be aware of that. Thus, he’s told to hammer you hard for a deal, only to have the deal supplanted by his superior who will assume the role of lead negotiator in the next phase. You think you’re dealing with one person that’s acting irrationally when, you’re really dealing with a team that could be playing good cop/bad cop – you just don’t know it. And that’s to your detriment.

To insulate yourself from such tactics:

  1. Inquire about others in his environment that might be interested in the deal.
  2. Have him confirm in writing that he has final approval to agree to a deal (watch his body language when doing this – if he displays any form of hesitancy, he may be sending a signal of discomfort. That could indicate that he’s not the final arbiter.)
  3. Get him to commit in-writing every understanding that you have about a deal. Do this as you move from one phase of the negotiation to the next.

The point is, if he’s acting crazily, you want to identify the reason for such actions and eradicate them before investing a lot of time in the negotiation.


There are multiple numbers of ways to control a negotiator that appears to be crazy, irrational or one that attempts to bully you during a negotiation. When dealing with such, point out what’s at stake. Get their buy-in for the agreement and state the consequences as being huge and painful if broken. Doing so will lessen the chance that the crazy type of negotiator will get the best of you … and everything will be right with the world.

Remember, you’re always negotiating!

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