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How To Deal With Negotiating Gameplay

Written by: Nicole Soames
Published on: 13 Nov 2017

As a commercial skills trainer and coach who has helped hundreds of people raise their negotiation game, I’m often asked what is the most challenging aspect of negotiation.  And without doubt I reply it’s dealing with negotiating gameplay. By gameplay, I’m talking about “the unfair use of tactics designed to put you on the back foot and weaken your negotiation position.” This could be your counterpart checking their phone and avoiding eye contact during the negotiation as a way of gaining the upper hand, or a someone trying to get you to lower your price by making a comparison to your competitor’s price.

The secret to becoming a master negotiator is to recognise the use of gameplay whether it has been deployed deliberately or unwittingly and then to harness your EQ and decide on the best way to respond to keep the negotiation conversation moving forwards. So, based on more than 25 years commercial experience, here are four steps to help you deal with negotiating gameplay so you can negotiate with confidence:

1. Learn How To Recognise Gameplay

A great way to help you recognise the most common types of negotiating tactics is to think about how kids behave when they want to get their own way. This could be stamping their feet when they’re told they have to go to bed or storming off to their rooms when they aren’t allowed to go out and play. Now draw on your EQ and apply a business lens to this behaviour to help you recognise when the other party is using negotiating gameplay to shift the balance of power in their favour.  Whether it’s the other person thumping their fist on the table to make a point or a customer refusing to comment or counter after you’ve delivered your proposal, the secret to becoming a master negotiator is to use your self-awareness to recognise gameplay for what it is – an attempt to put you on the negotiating back foot.

2. Dial Up Your EQ To Respond To Gameplay

Once you’ve spotted the use of gameplay, you need to dial up your EQ and draw on your self-control to respond rather than react to it. So first thing first, remember to take a deep breath to ready yourself. Don’t feel pressured into reacting – instead give yourself time to order your thoughts and prepare your response. In my experience a great way to balance the playing field is to treat the tactic as a game and use humour to diffuse the situation. So if you counterpart is not responding to your proposal, ask them “Are you giving me the silent treatment?” It’s important to say this with the right tone as your aim should be to keep the mood of the negotiations upbeat. After all, your goal is to keep the conversation flowing so that you find an outcome an outcome agreeable to both parties.

3. Move The Conversation On

The key to keeping the negotiation moving forwards is to adopt a winning mind-set and use appropriately confident words, tone and body language to help you balance the playing field.  Phrases such as “We’re both here to make money” or “How about we move forward like this…” remind the other party that you are both in the game and need to work together if you want to arrive at a successful outcome.  It can sometimes be hard to think of how to do this live in the moment.  So whenever possible try to anticipate and prepare for any curve balls that may come your way so you can work out how to keep the commercial conversation flowing.

4. Get Back To Business

Finally, remember gameplay is actually the stuff that gets in the way of true negotiation. Once you have spotted the tactic, responded and moved the conversation on, it’s time to get back to the business at hand – finding an overlapping position that benefits both parties.  So make sure that you take control of the negotiations by helping the other party focus their mind.  This could be making a new proposal or agreeing the next steps, actions that make sure you keep the momentum going so that you are more likely to arrive at a win-win outcome.


Nicole Soames is CEO of Diadem Performance, a leading commercial skills training and coaching company, and author of ‘The Negotiation Book’.

For more information about Nicole, visit follow her on twitter @nicolediadem or visit

‘The Negotiation Book – Practical Steps to becoming a master negotiator’ by Nicole Soames was published on the 19th October 2017, Order your copy at

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