One thing I have learned about agreeing to teach a class is that it has caused me to focus on many things that have otherwise been floating around in my subconscious. One of these is negotiation tactics: what is permissible and what is not.

In researching this topic for class, I came across a blog posted (August 31, 2017) on the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School’s website entitled “Dealing with Difficult People: Lie, Lies, and more Lies” written by a staff writer. In quite concise terms it sets out five common deceptive tactics we have all seen.

The first is the one we have always been warned about: “If it’s too good to be true, then chances are, it is.” That is, the other party is selling you snake oil or the modern-day equivalent. How does it work? The other party makes you an offer that is “absolutely irresistible” – the price and major terms are better than you expected. But, the other party has posed it as a hypothetical, not as a concrete offer. You take the bait and say “yes”; then the details are revealed and you find that the “minor” terms now being tacked on, are not so minor and make the deal quite undesirable. You have just been sold some snake oil.

Or, you have spent a lot of time negotiating the deal or have already invested quite a bit of money but the deal has not “quite” closed. There always seems to be “one more thing”. In truth, the other party is relying on the notion of “sunk costs”- that you have invested so much time, energy, and/or money into the negotiation, that you do not want to walk away. But, be aware: you will never recover those “sunk costs” no matter what you do…. So, walk away now before you sink even more costs into the abyss! (“Don’t throw good money after bad!”)

Another tactic is the lack of reciprocity. You are the one who seems to be making all of the concessions or your concessions are more generous than the other person’s. For every $100 you give up, the other person moves only $20! Etc. The remedy is transparency: ask the other party what is going on; why she is not matching you and if the answer is not satisfactory, stop negotiating!

This next tactic I have seen lots of times: the parties believe they have a deal and are about to write it up, when one party says, “Oh, by the way, I have one small request/favor. Can we change x to be y etc.?” This is called the “nibbler” by which after the deal is supposedly agreed upon, the other party continues to negotiate “minor” points or nibbles away some more at the deal. Consequently, the end deal is not nearly as favorable to you as it was before the “nibbling” started. The remedy is to say “no” to the first and every “nibble” thereafter unless the other party allows you have a comparable “nibble” in return. That is, “an eye for an eye”. If she will not agree to “nibbles” on her side, then neither should you.

Finally, and we have all heard this one as well; the other party “misstates” how much or how little she can accept/pay in settlement or how little/much “authority” she has in this matter. As with everything else in negotiations, take this statement with a grain of salt. When parties tell me they have limited authority, my response is to suggest they make a telephone call or text to get more as need be. I advise parties to keep going and “test the waters”. The worst thing that will happen is that the other party will, indeed, say “no”, meaning she really is at the end of the negotiation. But, you will never know unless you ask!

With these tidbits in mind, negotiation can be fun, especially if you love challenges like I do!

…. Just something to think about.


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