Ask Alignor

How should I deal with someone who won’t share information or refuses to engage with me?

Refusal to engage or share information is a tactic frequently used by difficult people, particularly if they perceive you as too eager. Sometimes, people refuse to engage or share information when they are in new situations or do not know what they want. Finally, people may refuse to engage or share information when they cannot obtain internal buy-in from their team members or key internal stakeholders. Whatever the reason, you do not want someone’s refusal to engage or share information to impede you. Thus, you should be consistent in your own approach and avoid assuming bad faith on the part of the other person. If you feel the other person is holding back, you might try simple conversation unrelated to the subject of the “negotiation.” From such social “small talk,” see if you can transition into respectful but probing questions as to why the other person will not engage or share information. If the other person still holds back and cannot give good reasons for refusing to engage, then you might try being more direct to see if you are in fact dealing with a tactical refusal to engage. On the other hand, the other person may have valid reasons for holding back. If so, you might try brainstorming ways to satisfy their needs, such as helping them obtain internal buy-in, so that they can move forward. Whether you are dealing with a difficult person or someone who for legitimate reasons cannot proceed, you should consider communicating consequences, if appropriate.