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Positive Ways to Negotiate with Bullies

bigstock-126592097One of the definitions of “bully” in the Merriam-Webster dictionary is: “a browbeating person who is cruel to others.” A definition for the word “negotiate” includes: “to arrange for or bring about through conference, discussion, and compromise.”

Since the very core of negotiation is compromise — and since that is often the very last thing bullies are prepared to do, it takes some thought to maneuver through a negotiation process with one. But it can be done!

The Toastmasters Interpersonal Communication manual lists some basic ways to improve negotiating skills, which can also sharpen your ability to reach a compromise with an aggressive communicator. These tips include:

  1. Breaking the ice before the negotiation process by making small talk (which establishes a more positive, relaxed atmosphere).
  2. Using “I” statements (which helps make people feel less defensive).
  3. Remaining honest and direct (so you don’t lower your credibility).
  4. Showing appreciation (which helps people become more amendable to compromise).
  5. Sticking to the issue(s) (which helps you stay focused).
  6. Listening to the other party’s position — and be willing to make concessions in order to help her or him benefit from a mutual decision (which creates a more likely win-win situation).

These tips will facilitate most any negotiation because they help you remain calm, positive, and succinct. When dealing with someone who is bully, there are even more tools that you may need to enlist in order to negotiate in a firm, professional manner. Listed below are some suggestions.

  1. According to a 2014 article in Newsweek, one of the best ways to handle a bully is to respond with a simple stare. Why does this measure work? The author maintains that it will give you the advantage because it often makes the bully uncomfortable enough to follow up with his or her own question—and, possibly, concessions. In this way, you are fighting the bully’s emotional sword fight with your own razor-sharp tactics.
  2. The website for The Negotiation Training Institute states: “The bully negotiator uses aggressive tactics such as emotion and anger instead of legitimate negotiation skills.” In order to handle aggressive negotiators, it is best to “catch them at their act and point it out to them.” The typical reaction of the bully, according to this site, is to back off when he or she is “caught.” It’s a simple as confronting the behavior with a rebuttal such as: “I’m not falling for that one!” Or the subtler reply: “I must not have heard you correctly. Please say that again.” In this way, you’re calling the bully out on his behavior, with the hopes that he or she will take it down a notch — or three!
  3. Finally, be willing to compromise in a bigger way than usual. As stated in the beginning, compromise is the core muscle to all negotiations. When dealing with bullies, you may need to make sure that they feel as if they have “won” in some way. For instance, if you’re negotiating a payment that a bully owes you, perhaps it would behoove you to offer something to “sweeten the deal,” such as decreasing the bill by a reasonable amount or donating an hour or two more of your time.

Above all else, remember that you have more power than you think. No matter how the aggressive negotiator treats you, you can control your responses — and your decision whether to keep working with the bully or not.

Positive Ways to Negotiate with Bullies

Tracy Shawn, MA

Author and speaker Tracy Shawn lives and writes on the Central Coast of California. Her debut novel, The Grace of Crows (Cherokee McGhee, 2013), won awards for Indie fiction, including the 2013 Jack Eadon Award for Best Book in Contemporary Drama and Second Place for General Fiction from Reader Views. She’s written numerous articles for print and online publications. Ms. Shawn has currently finished her second novel and is now working on her third. You can visit her website at:

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APA Reference
Shawn, T. (2018). Positive Ways to Negotiate with Bullies. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 29, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 24 Oct 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
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