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How to Kick-Start Stalled Negotiations

Even with the best of intentions on both sides, negotiations can stall as we have seen in recent times with the spluttering Brexit negotiations. Sometimes there are sticking points that initially seem impossible to overcome. There are advanced strategies, however, that high performing negotiators can use to problem solve and get around these roadblocks. The following strategies will show you how to Kick-Start Stalled Negotiations.

How to Kick-Start Stalled Negotiations
Negotiation skills training
Know Your Alternatives

It is important that you consider your alternatives before you start because this helps you to negotiate with a cool head and gives you confidence as other courses of action are available if your negotiations with this counterpart fail.

Take a Break

When negotiations stall, the atmosphere can become heated. When this happens, emotions surface and effective decision-making is unlikely. Therefore, it is worth giving each side a break: a change of environment; a change of perspective; and time to think. Members can reflect on the situation, talk amongst themselves, and develop a plan for moving the negotiation forward. This is often enough to break the deadlock.

Consider Additional Options

Negotiations can be categorized as “fixed-sum” or “variable-sum”. Fixed-sum negotiations are single-issue negotiations where the parties’ interests are directly opposed.

If you only have a limited set of options, it is difficult to negotiate because when one side gains something, the other loses, and vice-versa. The most common example is a negotiation over price.

At first sight, many negotiations appear to be fixed-sum in nature. Through careful planning and creative thinking, however, negotiators can open up the scope of negotiations so that they become variable-sum.

For example, they can:
  • add an issue which is not currently under discussion.
  • split a single issue into multiple issues.

The process of identifying more than one negotiation issue is called “unbundling”. By unbundling single-issue negotiations into multi-issue ones, negotiators create further options and therefore opportunities for win-win agreements.

Find Common Ground

Besides that, when negotiations stall, it can help both sides move forward if you focus on shared objectives rather than the differences that have caused the breakdown. Something as simple as re-stating a common goal can be enough to keep eyes on the prize and help overcome your differences.

Give Concessions

Giving concessions is important at any stage of the negotiation process. It becomes most important when you are trying to break out of a deadlock situation because even a token concession can help build goodwill and help get negotiations back on track.

With this in mind, when you are preparing for your negotiation, think about what you might ask for in return so there is mutuality and compromise on both sides. This will involve careful consideration of how you can split the concessions that you are prepared to make into many smaller ones.

If you can’t gain anything in return, don’t assume that the other party will see the full benefit of the concessions you offer. You need to label it by explaining what you have given up or its benefit to the other party.


Resistance and reluctance are an inevitable aspect of negotiations. These strategies will help you to navigate the barriers and deadlocks of negotiation with the creativity and goodwill that will power the relationship beyond the negotiation.

By Jacob Ahmadzai

Helping businesses improve performance with proven learning and development solutions. London based with a global reach.