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Dealing with a hard bargainer

You  may encounter sometimes  parties  who are  tough  on  bargaining; persons  that  take  hardened,  inflexible  stand; persons  who  end  their statements  as  they  begin, 'Thus  far  -  no  further' types.

Remember  the  mediator has  a  job  cut  out.  The first  attitude  is  not  to  be judgmental  to  condescendingly  suggest  that there  is  nothing  that could  be  done  if  the  posturing  is  tough    and  mediation  could  succeed only  on  a  policy  of  give and  take.  The  technique is  making  the  parties  realise it  without  expressly  saying.

The  tough  persons  may  begin  to  show  impatience  from the  very  beginning  and  make an  opening  statement  that s/he does  not  have  much  time  to waste.  S/he  cannot  keep  bargaining  back  and  forth.  It  is best  for  you  as  a  mediator  to respond  that  you  recognise her/his  value  for  time  and  suggest  that  a  time  line  ought not  to  be  a  problem  and  you are  interested  in  eliciting  the best  proposals  from  both  the parties  within  the  shortest time.

The  person  may  be  worried about  several  constraints  that operate.  Maybe,  s/he  has  to take  the  consent  of  someone else;  maybe  his/her  boss  has  set a  resource  constraint;  maybe his/her  parents  will  not  agree  to the  suggestion.  Use  the  caucus  to  elicit  the  constraints  if any  and  see  how  other's views  could  be  accommodated  in  the  talks  and  your honest  view  of  such  a course.  It  will  assure  the party  of  your  earnestness  in engagement.


Perhaps,  s/he  has  certain  hidden  interests  that  he  is  not prepared  to  reveal.  Make  a calculated  guess  and  drop  a hint  in  your  dialogue  that you  understand  his/her  interests  and  show  a  way  of how  you  will  meet  his/her hidden  interest. Is  s/he  offended  about  the opening  offer  of  the  other party?  There  is  nothing wrong  in    asking  the  person  directly  what  s/he thought  about  the  offer and  let  the  other  party realise  that  talks  must take  a  different  turn. Allow  the  party  making the  first  proposal  explain why  s/he  made  proposal  that s/he  did  and  the  basis  for  such a  proposal.
Keep  a  record  of  proposals and  counter  proposals  and identify  the  best  offer  or counter  that  the  parties  have made.  The  hard  bargainer that  the  party  is,  s/he  will  realise  that  you  are  keeping track  of  all  suggestions  and there  is  no  room  for  flippancy.
Don't  be  in  a  hurry  to  close. No  party  is  prepared  to  quit easy.  Make  the  party  believe that  the  parties  have  the  capacity  to  generate  their  own solutions.  Ask  the  party  if  s/he will  think  over  and  return after  a  week  or  two.  Best chances  are  that  s/he  is  mellowed  the  next  time  when  s/he turns  up.

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