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A to Z of Negotiations - H is for Hard Bargaining

When I first started to learn about negotiation, I was basically told that hard-bargaining was unethical. That everyone should use interest-based bargaining. However, as I mentioned in my post on Distributive Bargaining, even in an interest-based negotiation, there will be a place for negotiating to claim your fair share of the value.

So, the question here is more about the tactics that negotiators may use to manipulate an outcome and whether or not you would choose to use them. Rather than hard-bargaining, I call these hardball tactics. Some of the most frequently cited hardball tactics you may come across are set out below.

Good cop / Bad cop - Alternating between negotiators who use tough and more lenient negotiation approaches.

Lowball/Highball - Using extreme offers to change the anchor of potential negotiation settlements.

Bogey - Pretending a low priority item is important in order to trade it for a concession on another item.

Nibble - Asking for a proportionally small concession on a new item to close the deal.

Chicken - Using a large bluff plus a threat to force the other party to concede.

Intimidation - Using emotional ploys such as anger and fear to force concessions.

Aggressive behaviour - Relentless requests for more concessions and better deals with an aggressive tone.

Snow job - Overwhelming the other party with so much information they can't make sense of it.

I’m certainly not advocating that you use any of these. In fact, I think the risk of them backfiring can be high. At a minimum, I’d be worried about my reputation as a negotiator by relying on these – although that is not something that seems to bother Donald Trump!

It is important to know how to defend yourself against these hardball tactics though. There are two pieces of overarching advice that may assist.

  1. Be prepared by knowing what the tactics are and stay alert during the negotiation to identify any possible tactics being used. I like to follow the advice we are all given for preventing terrorism – “Be alert, not alarmed".

  2. If you suspect the other party is using a tactic, ask a question. By seeking to get further explanations of certain offers or behaviour from your counterpart, you may place them in a position where they can no longer rely on the tactic

For more information about how to negotiate effectively, or for assistance with your next negotiation, contact us for a confidential, no-obligation discussion.

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