The Negotiator Magazine

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Charles B. Craver

When individuals negotiate, there are a relatively finite number of techniques they can employ to advance their interests. It is beneficial for negotiators to understand the different techniques both to enable them to decide which ones they should use and to allow them to recognize and counteract the tactics being used by their opponents. Although I describe twenty-nine different techniques in my book, I will focus on the most common and interesting ones here.

  1. Extreme Initial Demands/Offers


            Some negotiators like to commence bargaining interactions with extreme opening positions. They hope to use this technique to anchor the preliminary discussions. If their adversaries are not thoroughly prepared, they may begin to bargain up or down from these extreme positions instead of ignoring these openings and articulating rational offers or demands of their own. If negotiators hope to enhance the credibility of one-sided opening positions, they should prepare detailed and logical explanations to support their seemingly unreasonable demands or offers. Such an approach creates an aura of legitimacy, and it usually induces opponents to treat such extreme positions more seriously than positions not supported by rational explanations.

            People confronted by extreme opening positions should not casually dismiss them, because this approach may lead opponents to believe their wholly one-sided demands or offers are more realistic than they initially thought. Recipients of such offers should politely but firmly indicate that they are completely unreasonable and unworthy of serious discussion. Such communications can induce the original offerors to moderate both their internal objectives and their external position statements in the other side’s direction.

            An effective way to counteract extreme opening positions involves the use of probing questions. Offerees can ask offerors a series of questions requiring those persons to explain the rationales supporting each aspect of their opening positions. The questioners should begin with the most finite components where there is little room for extreme puffing and then move on to the less finite aspects. If the unreasonable offerors are forced to explain each component, they begin to falter since it is difficult to defend wholly realistic positions with respect to such finite items as lost wages or the value of real estate.

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February 2007