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Hardball negotiation tactics - do you know how to respond?

There are some negotiators who always play hardball. Others prefer to be more collaborative and more interest based. Regardless of your preferred style, it is important to recognise these hardball tactics so that you have the ability to respond to them when they are used against you.


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, there's a high risk they can backfire on you and damage the relationship. At a minimum, I’d be worried about the kind of reputation as a negotiator I'd be creating and whether it would make others avoid bringing me valuable opportunities.

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. 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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