The nature of negotiation requires each party to make concessions and achieve a mutually agreeable middle ground.
Although you've heard it before, there is some truth to the idea that a successful negotiation is an arrangement in which neither party gets what they really want.
In a move that seems to run counter the nature of a negotiation, sometimes one party will refuse to negotiate on a specific issue or set of issues. For example, a car buyer might have his mind set on a certain color for his new ride. Everything else is on the table, but if he decides that he will only consider red cars the dealer knows that negotiations will be limited to the red vehicles in his inventory.
There are a lot of reasons why someone might make a non-negotiable demand. It can be a tactic, but it's usually because the non-negotiable item represents a legitimate need or want. If the other party pushes the individual to rationalize his refusal to negotiate, he does so at his own peril, especially if there is a personal reason why the individual won't consider a concession in that area.
When to Apply Non-Negotiable Demands
Non-negotiable demands are most effective when they are applied to a narrow or isolated aspect of a larger negotiation. If you refuse to negotiate anything, you will quickly develop a reputation for being inflexible and unprofessional. You should also realize that your refusal to negotiate in one area has a price in other areas. In consideration of taking Point A off the table, your opponent will expect you to make a concession on Point B or Point C (and rightfully so). So non-negotiable demands should be used sparingly, taking into consideration that you will need to compensate the other party somewhere else in the negotiation process.
Benefits of Non-Negotiation
A non-negotiable demand can clarify the other person's negotiating position. If your opponent threatens to walk away from the process, he may have other alternatives on the backburner and you will need to sweeten the offer. If he accepts the demand immediately, it can mean that the issue is either not that important to him or that he has no other options and is desperate to make a deal.
The risk of non-negotiable demands is that they can be deal-killers. If the demand is important to your opponent and he has other alternatives, expect him to thank you for your time and break off negotiations. If the individual has been led to believe that the issue would be negotiable, hard feelings can persist long after negotiations have ended.