Unmask These Devious Negotiation Techniques

BY Tim Londergan
Featured image for “Unmask These Devious Negotiation Techniques”

Never negotiate with a magician. Obviously, skilled magicians are masters of distraction. As illusionists, it’s hard to detect their dishonesty. Face it, it’s tough enough dealing with your real-​world negotiation partners, let alone looking for trouble. Even so, the negotiation techniques you’ll encounter day-​to-​day can be just as cunning as the most proficient sleight of hand.

Some negotiation techniques are meant to deceive

Social psychology research says that people tell, on average, one or two lies every day. Negotiators are no different. In fact, a Wharton School study claims roughly half of those making deals will lie when they have a motive and the opportunity to do so. The deceptive practices may be ambiguous statements or misleading omissions. Moreover, there are nuanced acts such as bluffing or flattery. The study states that, among other things, a negotiator's level of deception is conditioned on the dimension of relationships and the presentation of direct questions. Forearmed and smarter, you can develop negotiation techniques by increasing your mental strength and carefully reviewing the subject at hand. In this case, your credibility may be your greatest asset.

Recognizing deception is not easy

The human mind often betrays us. A study cited in the Harvard Business Review found that “people can correctly identify whether someone is telling a lie only 54% of the time—not much better odds than a coin flip.” Even the polygraph has problems and is wrong about one-​third of the time. Worse, we are all poorly prepared to recognize lies that are concealed in flattery. We readily accept information that conforms to our hopes or assumptions. Consequently, we are better off to focus on prevention rather than detection.

Strategies to reduce deception

Harvard professor, Leslie K. John writes of negotiation strategies to defend against deception. Here are two suggestions that deal directly with relationships and direct questions.

  1. Encourage reciprocity” – be the first to disclose information in the spirit of kinship. Human instinct is to match such an act, inspiring empathy. Much like setting the anchor, this can direct the conversation toward information sharing.
  2. Ask the right questions” – Your counterpart is guarding important information. Therefore, it’s up to you to dig deep for pertinent facts. Lies by omission and imperceptible problems must be revealed by cunning negotiation techniques and precise questioning.

Learn to translate speech patterns and body language

If you are fortunate enough to negotiate in person, you have an advantage. Even more so if you have been around your counterpart to establish a baseline of their typical behavior. Author, speaker and confidence coach, Karen Donaldson, is featured in an article containing her “triangle” method of deception detection. Donaldson’s observations can enhance your negotiation techniques to help you determine if someone’s really telling the truth.

Flowing speech patterns are typical when we’re telling the truth. However, long pauses, erratic or faltering patterns may indicate attempts to create a story on the fly.

Head gestures inconsistent with words are a telltale sign of indecision or possibly lying, according to Donaldson. Additionally, lip folds are a tiny tell of holding back. “Because our bodies tell the truth unless we’re a master at controlling it.” Patterns of eye contact and the blink rate can be a tell as well.

Be aware of rubbing or scratching or any indication of discomfort. Our body responds to tension, and we naturally try to self-​soothe or calm ourselves when we are distressed. Our nervous system triggers sensory symptoms that cause itching or blushing beyond our control.

Photo by Fengyou Wan on Unsplash