How can you respond well when a negotiator tries to use ethically questionable, manipulative tactics on you? ‘Sharp bargaining’ tactics are fairly common in negotiations. Most of us dislike negotiating because in part because we don’t want to deal with them. But a simple, powerful negotiating tool can give you an excellent set of responses to many of the most common ones. In this first of a series of short, practical articles on different sharp tactics and how to deal with them, we look at a particularly common and irritating one called ‘Nibbling.’ It works like this: just when you think you are close to an agreement, the other negotiator says, “there is just one more thing,” and then asks for something more. Especially if you have already spent a lot of time negotiating with him, you will be very tempted to give in ‘just to get the deal done.’ How can you respond more wisely? ^^

A Basic Strategy for Dealing with Sharp Tactics: I FORESAW IT.

Here’s the basic strategy we’ll explore in this series of articles: use the I FORESAW IT mnemonic as a tool kit full of useful ways to respond to sharp tactics. Students of my negotiation courses will recall that this ten letter memory device stands for ten questions you want to ask and then answer before you negotiate. (You can read a brief article about it by clicking on “I FORESAW IT”. )

Once you know the device, you can refer to it to deal with a host of common sharp tactics you may face. Must you do the whole mnemonic if you face a sharp tactic? While it’s best to be fully ready, you can still use the I FORESAW IT if you aren’t fully prepared. The moment you face a sharp tactic, you can quickly run through the mnemonic in your mind and pull out one or two parts that will help. Often doing this thinking will suggest some excellent responses. When in doubt, call a time out and regroup.

In this article I’ll use the I FORESAW IT to help develop answers to the Nibbling tactic.

How Nibbling Works. Nibbling relies on your eagerness to get a deal done. Playing off that eagerness, the other negotiator in effect dangles the promise of agreement like a carrot. It comes in a variety of guises. One example: you and a car dealer agree on a price, goes out to ‘check the deal with my boss’ and then comes back, saying, “$500 more and we are just about there.” Another: you buy a large refrigerator ‘on sale,’ and then learn there are delivery fees, rush order fees, dealer prep charges, and an extra charge for ice trays.

What To Do? Thinking about one or more of the following parts of the I FORESAW IT can help you respond wisely:

*Interests-if you’re clear about why you’re in this negotiation, you stand less of a chance of getting swept up in it. (“We need a bigger refrigerator, but not urgently.”)

*Factual Research– if you know market prices and industry practices, you can say, “sorry, the price is now too high.”

*Options– if you can think of some tradeables, you can say, ‘I can’t just give you more, but if you’ll give me something more that I need in exchange I may be able to accept a higher price. One possibility is…

*Reactions and Responses– if you anticipate and role-play responses to this tactic, you will be ready to speak with more confidence. Instead of “I wish I’d said…” you’ll be able to actually say it. For example, “If he adds extra charges to the advertised deal, I’ll say…”

*Empathy and Ethics– Another way to spot ethically questionable traps you may face is to ask, “are any ethical dilemmas likely?”

*Setting and Scheduling– [skip]

*Alternatives to Agreement– Perhaps the most important question: if he insists on playing this game, what can you do without him? If you know there’s another seller that’s offering the product for a good price, you can say, “I’d love to buy from you, but I’ll have to go across the street if we can’t stick to the price I’d understood earlier.”

*Who– Is there someone else on their side who you can speak with who won’t play this game? “Thanks for your time. I wonder if I might speak with your manager.” Sometimes she will skip the tactic, especially if you mention your alternatives and your research.

*Independent Criteria– “I’m sorry, but Consumer Reports- an industry standard that we both can trust- says that these additional charges aren’t appropriate.”

*Topics Targets and Tradeoffs– “I can’t just agree to give you more, but I can trade for something else.”