Antagonism as a Negotiating Tactic

Don't feed the sharks if you want to go swimming! Intentionally irritating another person is usually counter-productive to settling a dispute. The goal is to build relationships upon which agreements can be forged. That being said, the parties to any dispute are essentially antagonists.

When a negotiation is stalemated and no one is really trying to make progress, shifting styles from that of a polite mediator to that of an antagonist can evoke a reaction. Such reactions cause some form of movement in the discussions. Then the parties on one side begin to bicker. They may be called into a caucus session by their attorney and told to quell the internal fighting in public as it undermines their cause. Similarly, a mediator stymied between two parties may become antagonistic toward one of the parties in private by implying that they are wasting his time by not trying to reach a settlement or not considering facts when they are presented. A healthy tongue lashing in private may serve as a reality check for the obstinate party and evoke a counter proposal.

When one party does not like a proposal and does not need to make the deal, he may simply harden his position and become antagonistic. If he is willing to walk away, being abrupt will either save time or cause the other side to improve their offer to keep the dialogue going. Either way, the antagonistic approach has used the power of indifference or negativism to change the outcome of the meeting.

Antagonistic tactics can backfire. Egos are fragile things and anger can rage uncontrollably when a person is provoked. Use an antagonistic style or tactic only if you are prepared to walk away from the meeting if things fall apart.