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Non-Negotiable – 7 Tips to Negotiate the Impossible

Key takeaways

  • Non-negotiable deals can be challenging but not impossible to work with in negotiations.
  • Overcoming “vertigo,” emotional hurdles, and staying focused are essential in such situations.
  • Knowing when to walk away from non-negotiable deals can protect your interests and reputation.

In every negotiation, variables that are non-negotiable are a real pain. You really have to rack your brain to come up with different schemes and scenarios that will allow you to open up negotiations with the other party.

For this article, we are going to talk about tips on how to deal with non-negotiable variables and deals. We are going to determine what makes a deal non-negotiable and then think of different ways on how to turn a non-negotiable deal into a negotiable one!

After reading this article, your peers will probably worship you for your ability to negotiate the impossible.

Defininga Non-Negotiable Deal

In simple layman’s terms, a non-negotiable deal is exactly that. It is non-negotiable and it might be next to impossible to try to convince the other party to negotiate for this particular deal. 

Of course, one also has to understand that there might be a reason why this deal is impossible to negotiate. It could be any of the following scenarios:

  • The other party is dead set on a fixed price, no matter what.
  • The other party has encountered multiple negotiations that all ended in failure.
  • The other party genuinely has no desire to negotiate further.
  • The other party could also be employing a hardball tactic to measure how much you are willing to offer.
  • During the negotiation period, the other party feels threatened and is therefore using the words non-negotiable as a way to avoid negotiating further.

Turning Arounda Non-Negotiable Deal

Since we’ve already determined what a non-negotiable deal is, it’s time we talk about how to turn an impossible deal into possible negotiations. Some of the aspects of this article will be included in our Negotiation Course For Procurement Professionals, so if you’re not able to follow up, you can always enroll in our course for a more in-depth explanation.

Sometimes, a non-negotiable deal only becomes that because the problem can sometimes lie in us. We are oftentimes unable to turn an impossible deal around because we are too afraid to keep pushing the buttons for fear that it may lead to an even bigger frustration. Take, for example, an argument over a relative or loved one regarding a straight issue, such as financial decisions. All of a sudden, the small argument blows up into a huge nuclear bomb of anger and frustration. Both you and your relative are unable to resolve anything because both of you are too emotional to think about the core and solution to the problem. 

According to negotiation expert Daniel Shapiro, this is called vertigo – that state of mind where a negotiator gets so emotionally consumed in a conflict that they can’t see beyond the problem. And this happens to be true in some non-negotiable cases.

So how do you deal with so-called vertigo? Here are some very simple steps to think about any time you are about to approach a non-negotiable deal:

1. Watch your emotions.

Never get the best of your feelings ahead of you when discussing the other party for potential negotiation. There will be times when the other party will try to annoy you. They do this because they want you to stop.

2. Calm Yourself

If you feel that your frustration is starting to get the better of you, it’s time for a recess. Stand up, get out of the negotiating table for a while, have a smoke, drink some water, walk ten paces out of the office, breathe. Do everything you can to get yourself relaxed again.  

3. Keep your Focus

Think about the reason for negotiating with this party. Is the deal you are going to offer them better than the ones they’ve encountered? If so, then focus on that particular area and don’t stray off anywhere else.

4. Watch What you Say

As an expert negotiator, you must watch what you say. If you know that the other party is triggered with some choice words, then learn to block those out from your memory. Do your research as well regarding the other party on what terms they do not want to hear.

5.  Know the Decision Maker

If the other party is represented by another negotiator, you can also ask the other party to answer you instead of the negotiator. There are times where the other party’s negotiator is the one controlling the strings.

6. Focus only on the Negotiations

Sometimes, thinking about your career during difficult negotiations can stir up unwanted emotions. It is natural to be frustrated and hot-headed when you are trying to get this deal done so you can move on towards your next deal for the day. Remember, be calm and collected but never lose your focus. Get the deal first and then worry about your career later.

7. Learn When to Quit

If the other party simply doesn’t want to negotiate and you’ve already exhausted all efforts to try and let them come up to the negotiation table, then it’s time to stop and let it go. Don’t waste your time wallowing in self-pity. You can’t deal with everyone, but you can try to improve so you can make a deal with almost anyone!

The Non-NegotiableVariable

Since we’ve finished talking about how to turn around a non-negotiable variable into a negotiable one, it’s time to think about what you can do if you’re dealing with a non-negotiable variable.

Despite your efforts, there will always be deals that you can’t turn around. It’s either the other party has ultimately decided to not negotiate anymore or nothing you say or do will turn it around.

In this case, the only way you can do is to leave the negotiation table. We even wrote an article about leaving negotiations and this is one of those perfect scenarios. There is no shame in admitting defeat. What you can do after this is to have a good self-reflection and check what you should have done that may potentially have turned things around. 

Don’t linger around the negotiation table. Quickly just stand up, wish the other party good luck and leave. In the case of a non-negotiable variable, leaving not only saves your reputation but will also remind the other party that you do not like wasting time.

The Pros and Cons of Walking Away 

You should not be sad whenever you walk away from a negotiation, especially if it does not benefit you as much as you expected. Here are some of the pros and cons of walking away from a non-negotiable negotiation:

1. You are instilling to the other party that you are firm with your offer and you will not budge
2. You are sometimes giving the other party a chance to rethink your offer
3. If done rightly, this move can instill confidence in you as a skilled negotiator.
4. The other party will not push their offer if they know that you will stop the negotiation if they do it.
1.This is not a move for someone who is ill-equipped for a negotiation meeting
2. It requires a lot of experience to know when to walk away from a negotiation
3. When done poorly, you may be seen as unprofessional
4. Gathering information may take some time.

In negotiation, if you see that the other party is not willing to compromise for both of you to mutually benefit in negotiation, then it is time for you to walk away. Remember, it is better to walk away than to commit to something that will put you at a great disadvantage. 

My Experience with Non-Negotiables

“Personally, I don’t like to stop or pause negotiations, but I did it many times when negotiating with suppliers. I’ve been in multiple situations in which I chose to -temporarily- walk away from negotiations. 

Examples of these situations were when suppliers did not come up with a new proposal although they promised me so. When suppliers did not move at all in the negotiations. 

When suppliers were asking for an unreasonable price increase, or when I had the feeling I was not dealing with persons that have authority. When facing one of these issues yourself in your negotiations, don’t hesitate to walk away!”


Non-negotiables are important to understand because this is where a good negotiator draws the line.

Good negotiators know if something is worth negotiating or not and the way they gauge this is with their non-negotiables.

If their non-negotiables are left untouched then that means the deal is worth negotiating but if their non-negotiables are poked and prodded at it’s an easy red flag to spot.

This article emphasizes that good negotiators are firm in their non-negotiables and are willing to walk away if these are breached. This makes a negotiator powerful and harder to bully around by the other party.

Frequentlyasked questions

What is Non-Negotiable?

Non-negotiable means any deal that is considered impossible to close or win.

How to negotiate a non-negotiable?

The only way to negotiate a non-negotiable deal is to do your research on why the deal is impossible to win.

When is something non-negotiable?

Sometimes, a deal becomes non-negotiable when emotions are always invested during the negotiations. It is important to remove any emotions first before a deal can be done.

About the author

My name is Marijn Overvest, I’m the founder of Procurement Tactics. I have a deep passion for procurement, and I’ve upskilled over 200 procurement teams from all over the world. When I’m not working, I love running and cycling.

Marijn Overvest Procurement Tactics