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December 20, 2018

Negotiating Tip 61: The Interruption Strategy

It works. It works. It works!

Sudden Interruption

During a negotiating encounter, one is often in the midst of conveying an important point or perspective. Such times even find us gaining momentum, enthusiasm and volume. 

What happens, however, if we are suddenly interrupted?

Very few things take us off our track and even our best game than getting interrupted

Examples can include a cell phone ringing, another party walking up or even one party dropping something to the floor.  Are these just chance events or are they part of the interruption strategy?

I am convinced that good negotiators don't let their opponent get up a head of steam or gain conversational momentum.  When good negotiators see that happening they tend to employ a tactful version of the interruption strategy.

I'll admit it is a bit of play acting or posturing, but it works, it works and it works!  You don't have to do it often, but in the middle of your opponent's powerful presentation, you hold an open hand up to pause the conversation and turn your head to anticipate a sneeze.  Or in a similar situation, you interrupt them abruptly and ask them to explain something they've just said.
 
  • I saw this technique used so effectively during a union negotiation meeting.  Party A was energetically making a series of ascending points.  It appeared they were building toward a powerful ending when Party B tactfully interrupted and said, "What did you say? I didn't hear that."
 
  • Wow, it was like a train hitting a wall.  The air went totally out Party A's momentum.  Party A knew they had to be heard and understood if their points and perspectives were to be effectively conveyed. 
 
  • I watched in amazement as Party A struggled to determine what wasn't heard or understood.  The pattern was broken and when Party A tried to get back on track, they just couldn't, at least not with the same zeal and enthusiasm as before.

You certainly don't want to be discourteous or disrespectful, but injecting a tactful interruption, as a contrived strategy, can work wonders.  

If you don't believe me, try it the next time your kids get all excited and energized when they're asking for something from you. 
 
  • Break their pattern
 
  • Use exaggerated body language and facial expressions
 
  • Ask them for detailed explanations.  Explanations are not what they thought they'd have to include in their proposal.  
 
  • Ask them to continue or to start again and watch for the diminished energy.

Success in low-risk situations like this will empower you to plan more interruptions.

We interrupt this tip to remind you that good negotiators consistently use the interruption strategy as they KEEP Negotiating.

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