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Why Do We Let People We Don’t Like Scuttle Our Deals?

Ben Byth
Difficult People (1)

It is surprising how many deals do actually get put together, given how fragile deals can be, how many things need to go right, and how easily people can put themselves in the way of good business.

When I asked my network what kind of people made them lose the will to fight for a deal here is what they said:

  • Ego (46%)
  • Ineptitude (25%)
  • Greed (17%)
  • Something Else (13%)

The reality is that it is easy to externalise the problem and walk away… but that will then limit your deal-making to people you like and get along with easily! I would rather internalise the problem and implement strategies for managing the issue.

Here are my tips for internalising the challenges with those people that are most likely to scuttle your deals:



The challenge with people who have big egos is that they probably want to be ‘right’, the centre of attention, and take all the credit. The easiest way to make this work is to:

  • Try and make them the ‘hero’ of the negotiation.
  • Coach them to come up with the solutions (don’t ‘tell’ them your idea).
  • Give them what they want on terms that suit you (you don’t need to be right if you get what you need).



I am equally irritated by these people because it feels like you spend a lot of time explaining why something is in their interest and they just don’t quite get it. You could try:

  • Don’t expect them to be agreeable when they don’t understand or if you have embarrassed them. Slow down and allow them the time to keep up.
  • Try and get them help, an expert that they trust. This could be inviting their accountant to the negotiating table.
  • Think about spending time with them in an informal context away from the negotiating table so you can coach them and help them through any issues of understanding.



Greed is really tricky because it's quite tiring to fight for every cent or to respond to ambit positions. The trick with greedy people is:

  • Don’t give in. Giving an inch will encourage them to take a mile.
  • Trade their demands to them. If you can agree to X, then I can agree to Y.
  • Consider giving alternate proposals:
    • Here is what I need to make your unrealistic demand work (something unrealistic in return)
    • Alternatively, if you can move a little, I would only need this to make it work (something more realistic)


Something Else

It doesn’t really matter what it is that irritates you in deal-making. It’s your job to think objectively about how you can move that irritant into your locus of control. What strategies could you employ to make the issue dissolve (because they are unlikely to change any other way!).


Happy negotiating! 

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