Earlier this year, I recommended "Never Split The Difference" (by Chris Voss) and "Start With No" (by Jim Camp). Both books eschew a win-win approach to negotiations that encourages unnecessary concessions and increases the risk of exploitation. Instead, they argue that you should insist on fair value for your solutions and not allow yourself to be manipulated into one-sided agreements.
But what about extreme situations where someone appears to have all the leverage, has no concern for your interests whatsoever, and wants to win at your expense?
For many, the tempting solution is to walk away. However, this won't always be practical. If you are highly dependent on a single customer or supplier, walking away might put everything that you have worked so hard for in jeopardy. It could also have devastating consequences for your staff and other stakeholders.
Even if you can afford to walk away, there will still be a lost opportunity cost. Only negotiating with nice, reasonable people will limit your growth potential. If you can swim with the sharks without being eaten alive, then you will unlock more opportunities for creating wealth and scaling your impact.
Fortunately, there is a definitive handbook for dealing with people who inspire revulsion or dread: "Getting Past No" by William Ury. It focuses exclusively on hostile situations where there is no pretense of civility or cooperation; where the stakes are high and the emotions are higher; where you're sitting across people who have no qualms about being deceitful, manipulative or blatantly coercive.
There is no padding, navel-gazing, or self-aggrandising. The book is crammed with practical advice that you can apply immediately, covering everything from maintaining your composure, defusing antagonists, turning conflict into cooperation, as well as breaking deadlocks and resolving standoffs.
It's impractical to recount everything that I have learnt from Ury's masterpiece. However, some of my favourites include looking for low-cost, high-benefit trades to expand the pool of benefits and avoid zero-sum arguments; helping others save face so that they are more receptive to pivoting from their original position; and disarming belligerent adversaries by querying the legitimacy of their dirty tactics for your own use.
If you've ever felt like David going up against Goliath, this book will be your slingshot.