Do Negotiating Tactics Mark You as Inauthentic?

In our last webinar we referred to the work of one of today’s leading business thinkers, Adam Grant, and his book, GIVE AND TAKE.  When opening the Op-Ed section of today’s Sunday New York Times, I was interested to see a piece by Dr Grant titled:

“Unless You’re Oprah, ‘Be Yourself’ is Terrible Advice”

What struck me is that his theme ties into our next Creative Negotiating webinar, which I just started working on today:

“Why Winning the Tactical Game is not Enough”

The first question that came to mind is one people in my seminars often raise: Why do people use tactics? Don’t tactics just create distrust and distance you from the other party?

People usually employ tactics for a simple reason: to get what they want out of the deal, usually in the form of concessions from the other side.  In pursuit of that goal, bluffing and gamesmanship are routinely employed.  To “soften up” the other party, negotiators resort to tactics like: “flinching” (feigned shock at the other person’s offer), “trash talking” (over-the-top complaints), and “charm and disarm” (friendly and agreeable at the outset, then lowering the boom later on), among others.

But does using these kinds of tactics cause more problems than they solve by branding you as an insincere, not-to-be-trusted, business person? Which parallels the question Grant raised in his New York Times piece: Don’t we go farther in life if we follow the commonly given advice to just “be yourself”, and display as much authenticity as we can?

Well, maybe not. Grant cites a little experiment conducted by the writer A.J. Jacobs who decided to see what would happen if he went a few weeks as “authentic A.J. “, letting people know exactly how he felt. In that role he felt obligated to tell his kid’s nanny that if his wife ever left him he’d be interested in dating her, and to tell his in-laws that spending time with them was a bore. 

His conclusion?  That pure authenticity was medicine too strong for people to take.  Instead, he concluded:

“Deceit makes the world go round.  Without lies, marriages would crumble, workers would be fired, egos would be shattered, governments would collapse.”

10 negotiating tactics

The way I would put it is that instead of being completely authentic, we use tactics every day to play the game of life.  And most of us don’t resort to tactics to exploit or deceive people (although some do).  But even among the most honest and generous among us, people rely on inter-personal tactics to avoid offending each other, and so we can work together more productively – in business and in life.

By the same token, bargaining tactics are necessary to play the negotiating game. What we at Mobus point out is that your tactics should change as the negotiation itself changes. It is one thing to do some moderate bluffing in the early stages of a negotiation when your main goal involves uncovering the other side’s degree of flexibility. 

Negotiating Continnum

Bargaining – Deal Making – Relationship Building

But as you move across the continuum of negotiating types from basic bargaining to deal-making and finally, relationship-building, there should be a whole lot less gamesmanship, and a whole lot more sincerity in the tactics deployed.  That way, not only can you get more of what you want out of the deal, but more importantly, wind up with a satisfied negotiating partner across the table.

Read the NY Times Article Here