Status in negotiations: What to do if the other side enjoys a high status.

Status in negotiations: What to do if the other side enjoys a high status.

How to recognise your counterpart's high status in negotiations

My first negotiation: Its memory will remain etched in my mind, because it taught me so much. I was a young 23-year-old law graduate and the third party representing the legal interests of the lending bank in negotiations for a multi-million-dollar project financing facility. I was able to observe the dealings from a safe distance.

What I witnessed was a remarkable spectacle! The setting: one of the bank’s lavish management board offices with panelled walls and ceiling, marble columns, massive crystal chandeliers set against the backcloth of monumental oil paintings. All status symbols of the highest order.

The protagonists: a powerful banker on his home turf, across from him a wealthy industrialist. Both educated men of the old school … stern faces, a clear line of argumentation, a measured tone of voice, polished rhetoric. The intangible expression of high status at its finest.

Learning negotiation skills from the best

It was crystal clear: There was no room for any mistakes here. I felt small, inferior, insecure, and at the same time full of respect and humility. All low status. But I knew: I needed to keep my ears and eyes wide open, because this was a first-class educational arena. I could always learn law from books. But the only place I could learn to negotiate was at the negotiating table.

Since then, I have conducted and coached hundreds of negotiations in the world of finance as an independent coach, assuming all roles. I learned something new every time – and status is an issue that comes up over and over again. Because it often decides the outcome of negotiations even before they begin – unless you know how to handle it.

What to do if the other side seeks to swing negotiations in their favour using high status?

My clients are very concerned about the following issues:

“How do I deal with the situation if the other side enjoys high prestige?”

“What do I do if the other side makes quite the impression by throwing around with status symbols?”

“How do I cope with my feelings of inferiority and insecurity?”

“What do I do if the other party makes use of its status to my disadvantage during negotiations?”

To succeed in such situations, you need to understand the factors that are likely to contribute to your own success. These are not only the obvious material status symbols such as a lavish office, valuable items, staff, style of clothing, level of hierarchy or simply wealth. Or immaterial status factors like education, diction, gestures, or titles.

Two factors are crucial to ensure that negotiations are successful whenever your counterpart wants to ‘keep you small’ by brandishing status symbols:

– your visible and tangible behaviour
– your inner attitude.

Because that is something you can control at any point in time.

Your visible and tangible behaviour: specific pointers


• Prepare for the negotiations thoroughly, both in terms of the material to be covered and mentally.
• Define a clear goal.
• Do not get distracted by the (assumed) status of your negotiating partners.

During the negotiations:

• Treat every person at the negotiating table with respect. Every participant has a good reason to be there. At first you won’t know who wields what influence in the decision-making process.
• Even if you are able to distinguish real from “wannabe” status: Don’t let on. Stay respectful.
• Remember: Behind every magnificent desk, behind every title, behind every golden fountain pen, there is A HUMAN BEING.

When you listen, you learn. When you ask, you lead.

• Listen up … and listen carefully.
• It is better to say less than more. BUT:
• Ask specific questions.
• Leave your ego at the door: It always gets in the way in negotiations. Think only of your goal.

Your inner attitude influences your status the most

In my next blog article, I will show you ways to upgrade your perceived status. Both in negotiations and in life.

Analysing and practising negotiation situations is a big step on your road to success. I will be happy to accompany you on this journey and to share with you my entire wealth of experience gained in over 20 years of negotiations.

You can reach me at: or +436602400135.

Your Raluca Ionescu

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