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  • Jharna Jagtiani

Debunking the Myth: 'Always Be Tough in Negotiations'

Updated: Nov 19, 2023

Negotiation success doesn't always demand unyielding toughness; flexibility and collaboration can lead to better outcomes.

Negotiation is often perceived as a battlefield where each party fiercely fights for their interests, employing tough tactics and hardball strategies. The prevailing myth is that to succeed, one must always be tough, unyielding, and even aggressive. However, this conventional wisdom doesn't always hold true.

In this article, we will debunk this myth and explore the value of adopting a more flexible and collaborative negotiation approach.

The Myth of Unyielding Toughness:

The notion of being tough in negotiations has been perpetuated by movies, books, and popular culture. It paints a picture of successful negotiators as ruthless, unwavering, and unemotional individuals. While there are certain situations where assertiveness is necessary, adopting a universally tough stance can be counterproductive.

Here are some reasons why:

  1. Relationship Damage: A consistently tough stance can strain relationships and lead to animosity between parties. Building a reputation as a "difficult" negotiator might discourage potential collaborators in the future.

  2. Missed Opportunities: An inflexible approach can cause you to overlook creative solutions and opportunities for mutual gain. Sometimes, concessions and compromises are necessary to reach a better overall outcome.

  3. Impasse: Unyielding negotiators may reach a deadlock where neither party can agree on terms. This can lead to wasted time and resources without achieving the desired result.

Case Study: Rina and the Supplier Negotiation

Rina, a procurement manager at a manufacturing company, was known for her tough negotiation tactics. She believed that being unyielding would lead to better deals for her company. However, during a critical negotiation with a key supplier, her approach backfired.

The supplier, who had a long history of collaboration with Rina's company, was seeking a price increase due to rising production costs. Rina refused to budge, insisting that the supplier maintain the current pricing. This led to a standstill, with both parties unwilling to compromise.

As a result, the supplier felt disrespected and undervalued. They decided to reduce their supply to Rina's company, causing production delays and financial losses. It became evident that Rina's tough stance had damaged a valuable relationship and hurt her company's bottom line.

The Value of Flexibility and Collaboration:

Negotiation is not a one-size-fits-all endeavour. Instead of defaulting to toughness, successful negotiators adapt their approach to specific circumstances. Here's why flexibility and collaboration are essential:

  1. Relationship Building: Building and maintaining positive relationships with counterparts can lead to long-term partnerships and future opportunities. A collaborative approach fosters goodwill and trust.

  2. Creative Problem-Solving: Negotiations often involve complex issues that don't have straightforward solutions. Being open to creative problem-solving can lead to innovative agreements that benefit all parties.

  3. Win-Win Outcomes: A tough stance can lead to a win-lose scenario, where one party feels like they've lost. Collaborative negotiation aims for win-win outcomes, ensuring that both sides benefit.


While there are situations where toughness is warranted, it's essential to recognize that a rigid, unyielding approach to negotiations is not always the best strategy. Building positive relationships, being open to creative solutions, and aiming for mutually beneficial outcomes can lead to more successful and satisfying negotiations. Remember, the art of negotiation is not about steamrolling the opposition but about finding common ground and achieving your objectives while respecting the interests of others.


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