Halloween Special - 3 Dark Negotiation Tactics
Trick or treat. Or trick some more.
There’s more to convincing people than meets the eye. And a lot of it is not ok.
1. Hide behind the truth
As you might suspect, few things in this world are genuinely new. Our meeting room booking software was preceded by basic Calendars, and those by pen and paper, which were probably preceded by quill and scroll. Cavemen didn’t hold meetings (can you imagine a corporate caveman?). The first entry in our list takes its name from an old word - “paltering”. To palter is to prevaricate, to speak in an evasive way, concealing more than you’re showing. Harvard Business Review describes it as “Telling a lie by telling the truth”. It is, however, simpler than it sounds - and anyone with some Catholic Sunday school behind them can vouch for it - paltering is lying by omission and implication. Half-truths are the most popular form of this.
For instance, if a client is forcing you to decrease your pricing offer by using a competitor’s existing offer, they might withhold what they’re receiving for the same amount from your adversary. By doing so, they leave you thinking “hey, those guys are more competitively priced than we are”, when in fact your competitor might have offered a less valuable product for a smaller fee. By telling you “their prices are lower”, the client is implying (not saying, so it’s non-binding) that the products are the same. Which, of course, they are not.
2. Break the rhythm
Three common scenarios for this are:
- Setting meetings when they might be most uncomfortable,
- Replying to calls/emails with delay and then arguing over deadlines or
- interrupting you while you’re presenting arguments in favour of one approach or when justifying a higher cost
Breaking someone’s thinking patterns or their speech flow can baffle, confuse and altogether make them feel like they had weak arguments to begin with. We take interruptions as a personal fault, perceiving them as our inability to keep people interested and focused. But there’s a better (or worse) way of doing just that.
3. Confuse & gaslight
Gaslighting, by contrast with paltering, is a relatively new term. 33 years old, to be precise and it originates in a play by the same name. In the play, a husband tries to persuade his wife that what she was experiencing was purely her imagination (despite that not being true). Simply put, gaslighting is making people doubt their own beliefs and, at times, their sanity.
This can’t be done easily, but it’s not impossible. You must know at least one person who always remembers things not written in the after-meeting minute and then comes up with realistic-sounding arguments to convince you otherwise. Often contradicting themselves between sessions, though without palpable proof of this. Thus making you doubt your own memory/ interpretation of the actual events.
These 3 tactics are rarely employed in a business environment, but we often see them played out in politics. They are simple to employ, but just as easy to destroy post-factum. Basic research and log-keeping will keep you safe from these. So never accept something unless it’s been verified and in writing. Or unless your meeting partner is 100% trustable and trustworthy.