Recognize and Counter Negotiators’ Dirty Tricks

By Andrew J. Malanga, Hong Kong, 2014
dirtyplay We negotiate every day in some way or another.  We may not even realize we are entering into a negotiation.  The seminal book by Fisher, Ury & Patton (2011), Getting to Yes, provides a great overview of the types of “dirty tricks” that can be used against us.  Some common trick tactics are things like unclear authority (feigning that the real decision must be made elsewhere by someone else), dishonesty, partial disclosure, etc.  Some dirty tricks may also involve positional pressure tactics using methods like calculated delays, unrealistic or escalating demands, or a take it or leave it offer.  Dirty tricks can also take the form of more subtle types of “psychological warfare”.  The “good cop - bad cop” scenario comes to mind.  Or, simply, the other party may try to make the environment uncomfortable, may not break for lunch, or may do something else that reduces our overall feeling of well-being. images John Patrick Dolan, author of Negotiate like the Pros, composed an article in which he outlines ten separate negotiation tactics including some “dirty trick” tactics (Dolan J., 2005).   In this article, Dolan identifies a few less common dirty tricks such as the “Trial Balloon”. These are questions designed to assess your negotiating counterpart’s position without giving any clues about your plan. The “Bait-and-Switch” is a technique in which your counterpart may try to attract your interests with one great offer, but then hook you with another mediocre one. Well, what should we do? We should negotiate the process or rules of the game.  We should neither tolerate dirty tricks, nor should we respond in kind.  This often only escalates the problems.  “[Some tactics] are used to take advantage of the other person. To be successful in sales and business, you must be able to differentiate between negotiationthe fair and unfair negotiation tactics so you can use the good ones to your advantage and deflect the questionable ones.” (Dolan, 2005).  If we recognize that the other side is using a dirty trick, we should reveal our knowledge to the other side and then question the legitimacy of it.  Often this alone is enough to embarrass the other side into dispensing with their shenanigans.   We should always strive, in the face of “dirty tricks”, to stick to our guns and use interest based negotiations instead of position.
Fisher, Ury & Patton (2011).  Getting to Yes; Negotiating Agreement without Giving in. Penguin Books, 2011.
Dolan, J (1992). Negotiate like the Pros.  Perigee Trade, 1992.
Dolan, J (2005). How to Overcome the Top Ten Negotiating Tactics.  Executive’s Digest, The Bull & Bear Financial Report, September 2005.
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