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50 Practical Negotiation Tactics

50 Practical Negotiation Tactics

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Published by: Rag17 on Mar 11, 2012
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Never underestimate the power of surprise—particularly when things have bogged

down and both sides are simply repeating their positions without making any head-

way. Consider making a suggestion or a proposal that completely surprises your

opponent, but use this tactic judiciously, because you will probably only get to use it

once. Why? A sudden surprise can disrupt the dynamics of a negotiation.

Example 1

A father and his two daughters were on their way to visit the grandparents.

Almost from the beginning of the three-hour drive, the girls had been fussy. They

stopped for lunch at a fast-food restaurant and shared a children’s meal that came

with a small doll. About an hour into the drive, the little girls began to fight over

the doll. Their dad tried to reason with them, and here’s how the “negotiations”



You two stop fighting. We’ve got a long ride ahead of us, and I can’t

stand it. The doll can be shared. You’re driving me nuts.

Andrea: The doll is mine; I took it out of the box. Tell Susie to let me have it.

Susie: The doll belongs to both of us. Mom said so. Just because you saw it first

doesn’t make it yours.

(Their dad pulls to the side of the road and turns to face them in the back seat.)


Stop it right now. I can’t drive if you keep this up. Just share the doll.

Andrea, you have it this part of the trip, and Susie, you have it when we

drive home.

Andrea: Okay.

Susie: Okay.

(In a few minutes, the fighting starts up again. This time, the argument is over the

doll’s shoes; Andrea had taken them off the doll, and Susie hid them under the



50 Practical Negotiation Tactics

Andrea: Give me the shoes back. Dolly has to have her shoes. Daddy said I got

the doll on the way to Grandma’s house. I want the shoes.

Susie: Daddy didn’t say anything about the shoes. Dolly doesn’t need shoes

on in the car. She can have them later.

(They continued to argue and whine and pinch each other. Dad tried correcting

them a few more times, to no avail. Finally, he slowed down, and reached back

for the doll. He grabbed it and threw it out the window.)


Now there’s no more fighting over the doll.


Dad’s use of a “surprise” tactic was extreme, but nothing else up to that point was

working, so it was worth the risk. Both Andrea and Susie were so shocked by their

dad’s action, they didn’t say another word. The tactic was so successful, in fact,

that they never fought over a toy in the back seat of the car again!!

Example 2

The editor of a local newspaper was planning on writing an editorial critical of a

locally elected auditor who had filed a very nasty lawsuit. The auditor asked to meet

with the editor to explain his position. The auditor’s job was to make sure that tax

dollars collected for the local education system were appropriately handled. He ini-

tiated the litigation against the local school board members and several banks that

invested the money for the board, charging that they breached their duty in their

handling these funds. The defendants contended that the auditor’s actions were

politically motivated, and that they had invested and spent the tax dollars wisely.

The litigation itself had been going on for more than three years, at great expense to

the auditor’s office and the school board. The local newspaper was prepared to urge

the auditor to end the litigation. Here’s how the meeting went:

Auditor: I appreciate a chance to talk to you about this litigation. I think I have

acted properly, and I hope I can convince you of that.

Applying Pressure


Editor: I’m certainly willing to listen, but I have to warn you that from what

I’ve seen and heard so far, this case needs to be dropped. The school

board members make a very good argument that their practices regard-

ing how the funds were expended are not just adequate, but actually

superior to some other entities you supervise. They are very persuasive

that this is just a political battle.

Auditor: I appreciate their arguments. They’ve been making that same argument

from the beginning. My frustration is that they have refused to provide

our office with sufficient information to back up their contention that

what they are doing is best for the schools. That’s really the reason this

has gone on so long.

Editor: Well, perhaps you should just cut your losses—and just drop the suit.

I really think the community would be better off. From what I can see,

there’s just nothing to back up your allegations, and it is costing your

office money and good will.

Auditor: Well, as a matter of fact, I think I have something here that will convince

you otherwise. This morning, one of the banks settled with my office,

and a significant amount of money will go toward the tax fund. Obvi-

ously, the bank would not have done that had we not proven our case.

Editor: (surprised) Really? They settled? This is public information?

Auditor: Yes. Here are the papers. Your reporters will probably want to follow up

on it. We believe the other defendants will soon follow suit.

Editor: Well, I guess we’re finished here. Thank you for coming in.


The editor wrote an editorial urging a resolution for the good of the community,

but recommended that the parties reach a settlement, rather than drop the case.

The auditor successfully used the element of surprise in announcing the settle-

ment and thus changed the direction of the editorial.


50 Practical Negotiation Tactics

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