Negotiate Shrewdly by Using Misdirections

Recently, I watched a colleague make a presentation. At the beginning of his presentation, he pulled a small red foam ball from his pocket. He then said a few magical words as he placed the ball from one hand into the other, opened the hand the ball was placed in only to have the hand absent of the ball when he opened it. Everyone in the audience suspected a sleight of hand had been used to create the illusion. That could have been the end of the ‘red ball trick’ had my colleague stopped at that point, but he went on to ask a gentleman sitting several rows from the stage to look in the top outside pocket of his jacket. A hush came over the audience as everyone anticipated the red ball appearing in the gentleman’s pocket. When the gentleman, with hesitancy, felt the pocket and exposed its content, he extracted a cell phone, but no red ball. Everyone laughed and my colleague continued with his presentation, with a much more attentive audience.

‘Misdirections’ throughout a negotiation can prove to be very beneficial if used appropriately. It thus behooves savvy negotiators to know when and how to use ”misdirections’. Questions might come to mind such as …

When should you use ‘misdirections’? What value can be achieved from the use of ‘misdirections’? What are the pitfalls to using ‘misdirections’ in a negotiation? Below are ways and answers that will give you insight into how this dynamic tactic can be applied and how its use as a strategy can be employed during a negotiation …

· Planning the use of ”misdirections’ in the development of your negotiation plan

- By now, if you have been following these lessons for some time, or if you’re several levels into becoming a savvy negotiator, you’re aware that you should always plan any negotiation before entering into it. In your plans, you prepare for ‘what if’ scenarios and the path upon which you envision the negotiation traveling. As you contemplate that path and weigh the ‘what if’ scenarios and the influence they may have on the negotiation, consider how you might misdirect, redirect, the negotiation, if it goes in a direction that is unfavorable to your position. In essence, give consideration to how you will respond to ‘what if’ scenarios by providing the perception of a more favorable position for your opponent, if he follows your suggested path. That path should be one that is advantageous to the negotiation and your position. As an aside, a good ‘misdirection’ creates the impression or facade of being more advantages to the other negotiator and to the overall outcome of the negotiation, without giving the appearance of being advantageous to your position.

· ”Misdirections’ in the form of red herrings

- Red herrings are ‘things’ that have real perceived value to the other negotiator, but marginal value to you. In order to use this tactic effectively, you have to convince the other negotiator that the red herring has immense value to you. To use a ‘misdirection’ coupled with a red herring, you should first give value to the red herring by making a ‘big deal’ in your desire to acquire it. Then, momentarily direct the attention of the negotiation onto another point. As you go about agreeing on the other point, revert back to the red herring and raise the stakes; do so by making a bigger deal about the other negotiator conceding on the point of the red herring. When he begins to protest, couple the immediately agreed to point with this new request. To the degree you can couple other agreed to points, to the red herring, the concession on the point of the red herring becomes more tolerable to the other negotiator. You run the risk of creating animosity, anxiety, and breaking rapport with the other negotiator, which could be detrimental to the negotiation. So, be cautious when using this tactic.

· Answering questions with questions is a form of ‘misdirection’

- By answering questions with questions, you can redirect, and thus misdirect, your responses to an informational gathering tool. In general, when negotiating, the person asking the questions is the person with the greater degree of control. By asking questions with questions, you continuously gather information, while not divulging information. The more information you gather, the more information you’ll have to improve your negotiation position. The next time someone asks you a question, respond by asking them a question, instead of replying with an answer. Try this tactic in a ‘fun’ environment and observe how much more information you gather. Then, when it’s time to use this tactic in a negotiation, it will feel like the fit of a hand inside a perfectly sized glove … and everything will be right with the world.

The Negotiation Lessons are …

· When you’re in the midst of a negotiation, sometimes things will become hectic, people will become angered, and they’ll be times when impasses will appear. By applying the strategy of ‘misdirection’, you can alter the other negotiator’s perception, change his opinion, and get the negotiation moving in the right direction. Never overlook the value of this tool.

· The use of ‘misdirections’ in a negotiation can be a very powerful tool. One of the ways to enhance its use is to use it when it’s least expected. Then, build upon the ‘misdirection’ by taking it a step further than what is expected, by misdirecting the negotiation in yet a different direction. If you wish to employ this tactic in an even more demonstrative manner, alter between the two ‘misdirections’ as the other negotiator thinks he’s closing in on settling one of them.

· ‘Misdirections’ in a negotiation can be powerful, but be cautious not to overplay your hand. If used too much, you run the risk of giving the other negotiator the perception that you’re playing games with him. If he senses such intentions, he may become belligerent, ambiguous, and unreceptive to other offers you might make. In essence, you will have created the impasse in the negotiation that you were trying to avoid.