Category Archives: Negotiation and Conflict Resolution

Recognize and Counter Negotiators’ Dirty Tricks

By Andrew J. Malanga, Hong Kong, 2014


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.


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.

The Importance of Sincerity

From taff on October 14th / CONFLICT MANAGEMENT

Most of us have had the experience of delivering an apology that fell on deaf ears. When apologies fail to achieve their aims, poor delivery is usually to blame. In particular, if the recipient thinks your apology is less than sincere, she is unlikely to forgive you.

This was the case in union-management negotiations at Philippines-based Golden Donut, Inc. When the management’s negotiating team showed up 35 minutes late to the talks, the union’s team stormed out in protest. In an attempt to resume the process, the management team sent the union negotiators a letter that included an apology. Perceiving the apology to be insufficient, the union refused to reconvene and ultimately went on strike.

When it comes time to make an apology, how can you convey your sincerity? By delivering the apology in person, expressing it with emotion, and conveying a sense of personal responsibility and remorse. In one study, Edward Tomlinson of John Carroll University and Roy Lewicki of Ohio State University found that participants viewed apologies to be more sincere when they included internal attributions for the harm (for example, “It was my fault”) than when the apologies included external attributions (“Market conditions were poor”).

The ability to make a sincere apology also significantly rests on your credibility. In particular, a history of unfulfilled promises were ineffective as the individual who committed a trust violation had issued a deceptive message earlier in the experiment. Therefore, don’t give assurances or make promises during a negotiation unless you’re certain you can follow through on them.

(See also: Team building, interpersonal relationships)

Negotiators typically try to advance their case by making persuasive arguments, listening closely to the other side, and inventing creative options. Sometimes, however, your most effective move can be a straightforward, heartfelt admission that you made a mistake.

When you download the New Conflict Management: Effective Conflict Resolution Strategies to Avoid Litigation you will learn how wise negotiators extract unexpected value using an indirect approach to conflict management.

Related Article: How to Say I’m Sorry

Related Article: Best Negotiation Case Studies

Originally posted on September 7, 2012.

Negotiation Skills: Negotiating to Give Good Advice

Posted By Project on Negotiation, Harvard on September 29, 2014

Many of us advise others on the job yet fail to plan adequately for this responsibility. Set up a strong relationship by negotiating your role as advisor.

Name-calling, backstabbing, and turf wars erupted among President Barack Obama’s civilian and military advisors in 2009, as he tried to devise a strategy for ending the war in Afghanistan, writes journalist Bob Woodward in his recent book, Obama’s Wars (Simon & Schuster, 2010).

Granted extensive access to Obama and members of his administration, Woodward depicts a power struggle that caused the president to lash out at his advisors in frustration at times. As Woodward’s book suggests, advisors can be as much a headache as a help.

Yet consider that almost all of us are responsible for advising others during the course of our work lives. For members of some professions, including business consultants, lawyers, and doctors, advising is a primary task. For others, ranging from salespeople to teachers to managers, advising is an integral part of the job, though not always recognized as such.

[pullquote]Whether you spend most or just a fraction of your workday advising others, it pays to reconsider how you approach your advisees[/pullquote], writes Tufts University professor Jeswald W. Salacuse in his book The Wise Advisor: What Every Professional Should Know About Consulting and Counseling (Praeger, 2000). In fact, as Obama’s decision-making process for the Afghan war suggests, when advisors and their clients clash over expectations and assignments, the results can be frustrating for everyone.

By negotiating your role with your client up front, suggests Salacuse in The Wise Advisor, you can lay the foundation for a productive relationship.

A dynamic relationship

Salacuse defines advice as a communication from one person (the advisor) to another (the client) that is intended to help deter mine a course of action for solving a problem. A key feature of advice is that the client may either accept or reject it.

Far more than just the delivery of information, advising is a two-way relationship that requires the active participation of both advisor and client, writes Salacuse. At times advisors serve as directors, guiding the client through the problem at hand, as in the case of an oncologist who must educate a patient about his disease and recommend treatment options. At other times, the advisor is more like a servant who must respond to the client’s numerous demands and perhaps compete for the client’s attention.

Obama’s advisors fell into this category as the president made decisions regarding the war in Afghanistan. A third course is for the advisor and the client to act as partners, jointly managing the advisory process by drawing on complementary knowledge and skills. An architect who is hired to design a house for a client with an artistic background might find that the two become equal partners in the project.

Finally, advisors can be relatively involved or uninvolved in the implementation of their advice. Surgeons implement the advice they give their patients, for example; psychotherapists do not.

Negotiate your role

A common mistake many advisors make is to assume they should simply tell clients what to expect from them. By contrast, experienced advisors understand that their role needs to be negotiated. Salacuse recommends asking a prospective client, “How do you think I can help you?” and then listening closely to the answer.

Why is it important to negotiate your role as advisor up front? Most obviously, your role determines the strategy you’ll take toward the client’s problem and how you will focus your energy, time, and talents, according to Salacuse. Imagine that a potential client has approached a marketing consultant about building the firm’s social-media presence.

The consultant will need to find out whether the client wants a “big picture” strategist who will devise a plan to be implemented internally or if the client also needs ongoing technological assistance.

[pullquote]As an advisor, defining the client’s underlying problem is your central task. A client is likely to focus on symptoms, such as “heartburn, falling profits, cracks in the walls,” [/pullquote]writes Salacuse. Drawing on your expertise, ask questions that look beyond symptoms to the deeper problem. Heartburn could be a sign of heart disease, falling profits could reflect the need for a reorganization, and wall cracks could suggest that a building’s foundation needs to be strengthened.

By negotiating the scope of a project, you educate the client about how you can help, what he must contribute, and how he can evaluate your advice. In addition, discussing your role lets you and the client agree on your fees (assuming you’ll be paid), your style of communication (e-mails or phone calls), assignments and deadlines, and your authority (or lack thereof) to act on the client’s behalf.

When you disagree

You may find during the course of an initial negotiation that you and a potential client have very different ideas about what your role should be, writes Salacuse. Suppose that a manager has been assigned to meet regularly with a new hire as part of a firmwide mentoring program. During their initial meeting, the advisor offers to meet with her advisee for lunch once every two weeks to discuss her career. The advisee politely explains that because of her hectic travel schedule, she can meet only once a month, at most.

The advisor might be insulted to be put in this limited role. But as Salacuse notes, advisees have plenty of reasons for restricting the scope of advisors’ involvement, including a natural desire to stay in control of their own lives—a desire that advisors must respect for the relationship to thrive. Keep in mind that as confidence and trust form, the scope of your role may expand.

A new hire who worries about becoming too dependent on her mentor may overcome these fears if the advisor proves to be both helpful and respectful of her boundaries.

Interestingly, research by Harvard Business School professor Francesca Gino has found that [pullquote]people tend to be more receptive to advice that they pay for than to advice they get for free. [/pullquote]That may explain why a work subordinate or a family member may be less receptive to your pearls of wisdom than a paying client would be.

What if the client seems to need more time than you can give or, conversely, can’t afford to pay you for the amount of work that’s needed?

In this case, you might propose two scopes of work, one broad and one narrow, with two different price tags, suggests Salacuse.

Ultimately, though, if you discover that you and the client are at odds regarding your role, you may need to decline the offer of an advisory relationship altogether. If a contractor believes that a building’s foundation needs to be shored up, but the client is willing to pay for only cosmetic repairs, the contractor might turn down the work for fear of perpetuating a dangerous problem. “Knowing when to say no to a client may be as important as knowing when to say yes,” writes Salacuse.