C-Suite Advisory

How to negotiate with an egomaniac

Some people enter a negotiation with the goal of finding common ground, allowing both parties to walk away with something that benefits them. Others enter negotiation with the sole purpose of winning and seeing the other party lose. This second type of negotiator is an egomaniac, and they are extremely difficult to negotiate with.

When dealing with an egomaniac, we need to prepare to negotiate with someone who is not rational, someone who will use persuasion to justify unrealistic demands. They will not hesitate to use threats, interruptions, and other aggressive behavior to get what they want. It is crucial not to give in to their threats or to let them push you around. The last thing you want to do is to reward their bad behavior.

Negotiating with egomaniacs will most likely trigger our own emotions: fear, insecurities, lack of self-worth, or competency. That is why so many people often fail at negotiation; they negotiate poorly because they fall victim to their own emotions.

The solution is to handle our emotions before they get a chance to take over. And the only way to avoid being controlled by our emotions during the negotiation process is to be present and mindful. This is important in all negotiations, but especially when you’re dealing with an egomaniac. By following the below tips, we can get better at controlling our emotions and not allowing an egomaniac to take control of the negotiation.

Preparation. Most of us believe that when we negotiate, we will be able to be and stay in control, improvise, and pivot in the moment. We want to think that negotiation is all about being rational, and that anybody can do it. But once the negotiation begins, many of us find that we go from confident and competent to uncontrolled, stressed, and unable to see clearly. With a little bit of preparation prior to the negotiation, we can get better at controlling our emotions once it starts.

1) Make sure to prepare with the other party in mind. Egomaniacs want to win at your expense. They want to create a win-lose scenario. Your job is to create value for both sides. Don’t let your fear or insecurities dictate the perceived lack of power, as is often the case.

2) Plan to handle emotions: yours and theirs. Many of the same emotions that come up during the meetings will also come up during our preparation. Practicing managing our emotions starts with experiencing and understanding them in a safe space with no real stakes. One of the best ways to experience emotions that can show up in a meeting is using what-if scenarios:

What if they interrupt me and don’t let me explain my position?

What if they threaten to walk away if I disagree with them?

What if they make an unrealistic demand?

What other scenario could trigger your emotions?

Take your time. It’s not about thinking about it. It’s about connecting with your emotional reaction to a specific scenario. Once you connected with that emotional trigger, you can plan to behave differently should the scenario presents itself during the meetings. This way, you can courageously choose to detach yourself from that emotion by becoming an observer.

In the meeting.  All egomaniacs pretty much share the same objective. They want to control your emotions, so they can get what they want. The key here is to remain calm and not let your emotions control you.

1) Whatever happens, it’s not personal; keep breathing. Your ego wants you to believe that you are under attack or a threat, and you need to react. It’s not about you. Slow down time by slowing down your breathing.

2) Be curious and ask as many questions as possible to understand their real motivations, drivers, pain points. Most times, it’s not about money: it might be about proving that they are right, that they have the power to control you, or about avoiding losing face. Persuasion rarely works with a nEGOtiator; make it about them and their world.

3) Be assertive and clear with what you can’t do or things you can’t agree on. Being assertive means expressing yourself with confidence. It doesn’t damage the relationship. Remember, we don’t want to reward their ego-driven behavior. Believe it or not, If you say yes to their demands or requests without getting something in exchange, it won’t give you any more respect or positively impact your reputation and credibility. Egomaniacs could be very resentful if they feel that it was too easy to get what they want. Next time, they will ask for more.

4) Be creative: Egomaniacs think there is only one way of being successful: their way. Propose alternatives or options by testing the water: Imagine that we could do this…. Let’s pretend that we could structure the contract this way…. The more options you bring to the table, the higher probability of finding a potential agreement.

Next time you find yourself about to negotiate with an egomaniac, you must plan to handle emotions (yours and theirs) in advance. Don’t show the other side that their approach works. You are not intimidated. Your job is to be curious and creative to find a solution that delivers value for both of you.


Written by Gaëtan Pellerin.

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Gaetan Pellerin
Gaëtan Pellerin, Principal at NaviGates Group, is author of the new book, Mindful NEGOtiation: Becoming More Aware in the Moment, Conquering Your Ego and Getting Everyone What They Really Want. He has spent the last ten years as a negotiation consultant-coach, helping negotiators hone their skills, and prepare and rehearse for their upcoming live deals. He also has consulted with many Fortune 500 companies on their strategies and established best practices for product launches, technology retirement, and the internal negotiation decision process. Before beginning his consulting career, Gaëtan held several senior sales and marketing management roles that allowed him to negotiate multimillion-dollar contracts in Japan, China, Thailand, Europe, and North America.


Gaëtan Pellerin is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. You can follow him on LinkedIn.