What You'll Learn
  • Deadlines impose a real or arbitrary time limit on decision making
  • Impose deadline to move the other side to decision
  • Defenses against arbitrary deadlines include sticking to agendas, Probing, and counter-offers

Recognize Deadlines

Imposing real or arbitrary time limits on decision making.

Deadlines come in many forms and at many points throughout the negotiation. Deadlines can be justified or arbitrary; they can be absolute or changeable. Deadlines can be used to force a decision, sometimes with the goal of gaining advantage. Some deadlines, or time limits, however are beyond the control of either party.

Expect this tactic to be used as part of one of these Negotiation Strategies (competitive, collaborative, avoidance, accommodation, compromise) and in these stages of the Negotiation Process (Preparation, Exchange, Bargain, Conclude, Execution).

Negotiation Strategies: Collaborative, Competitive and Compromise
Negotiation Stages: Exchange, Bargain and Conclude

Use of Deadlines in Collaborative Negotiations

Impose deadlines to move the other side to decision when the basis for the deadline is justifiable. Like many negotiating tactics, the use of deadlines can be very effective in collaborative negotiations when used sparingly with respect to the relationship and cultural context.

Defend Against Deadlines

There are preventive and defensive measures for handling deadlines.


To prevent the imposition of deadlines used as a tactic to force decision making, discuss any anticipated or possible deadlines when you BNP 11: Develop the joint agenda.


Your first defense against a new deadline is BNP 16: Use the Power of the Negotiator's Probe. Ask open-ended questions to determine whether the deadline is justifiable: "How did it arise?," "What happens if it isn't acceptable?," "What else can we do?" etc. If it appears arbitrary and used to force a premature decision, you can call a spade a spade, in a face-saving way, and offer instead to discuss an appropriate time-table for decision making.

Next respond as if the deadline were a proposal, and counter-offer. And if you are comfortable agreeing to the newly imposed time limit, at a minimum get something in exchange for agreeing to a sudden deadline with BNP 14: Use the "Yes if….".

  • Ignoring a deadline, especially a real one that is not arbitrarily imposed, carries the risk that the time limited proposal is withdrawn from consideration.

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