negotiation proposal

Flinching at Proposals Helps to Win at the Bargaining Table

Power Negotiators know one should flinch and always react with surprise and shock to any proposals of the other side. But why is it necessary to act like this?

Here’s a real-life example. In a resort area, you stop to watch one of the sketch artists at work. He has no poster with a price and got the shill person sitting in front of him. When you ask what his charge is, he tells you $20. If you don’t appear to be shocked, he’ll take the next step and say: “And color costs extra $5”. If you still look like it’s an alright price, he’ll add: “And I’ve got the cartons for shipping here, you will need one too.”

The truth is that people make proposals for you to watch how you will react. They don’t expect you to accept the request. They just want to see your reaction. Take a look at these examples:

  • A buyer asks a person selling TVs to provide a free extended warranty.
  • A car dealer only offers only a couple hundred dollars for a buyer’s trade-in.
  • A buyer asks to move into a flat one sells a month before the transaction is closed.

In each situation, one of the sides may not initially believe the other would fulfill the request, but without a person flinching they will think it might actually work. Seeing that an unreasonable request seems to be acceptable to another person, they decide to play tough at negotiations and try to get the most out of the situation.

Negotiation at Its Best

Wouldn’t it be interesting for you to observe negotiations if you already knew each side’s position and thoughts? Wouldn’t you like to “read” the mind of a person negotiating with you?

There are professionals who conduct special seminars on Power Negotiating. They teach the participants the secrets of successful negotiations, based on certain psychological principles. At a seminar like this, the audience is usually broken into three parts: referees, sellers, and buyers. Probably, referees get the most exciting position: previously they attend planning sessions for both the sellers and the buyers. Thus, they already know the range of negotiation of each side. They also are aware of the opening offers, and how far each of the sides should go. The seminar participants will take a case (say, selling/buying a print shop or surgery equipment for a hospital) as an example, and will play their roles accordingly. The sellers will step in with the highest stake, say $2.5 million, but will have it acceptable to let the price down to $800,000. The buyers will start at the lowest stake at $500,000 but will be ready to raise the price to $1.7 million if it’s necessary. The range of this negotiation will be between $500,000 and $2.5 million. For negotiations to work out well, the sellers and the buyers have to embrace a range where their prices overlap. Thus, the price falling somewhere within $800,000 to $1.7 million, will be acceptable for both sides.

At the start of any negotiations, the sides are trying to make each other tell their offer first. Finally, one side breaks the ice; they suggest a sum that is at the top of their negotiation range. They know it’s ridiculously much, and the other side will most certainly laugh at them. But instead of feeling shocked, or even indignant, the people on the other side of the table respond mildly: “We do not think we are ready to go this high.” At this point, the course of negotiation would change. The ones, who came up with the groundlessly high hope, decide they could get far more than they expected. They decide to hang in and act tough. What if they succeed?

Flinching at proposals plays a critical role: the majority of people tend to believe what they see rather than what they hear because their visual perception pre-dominates the auditory. You can be safe assuming that over 70% of people you are to negotiate with are visuals. Things they see have higher importance for them than things they hear. You definitely have learned of the main types of neuro-linguistic perception before. There are visual people (what they see dominates), auditory (hearing dominates for them) and kinesthetic (they are guided by inner feeling). A tiny percent of people can also be gustatory (guided by taste) or olfactory (guided by smell).

Unless something points to another type of perception, you can assume people to be visuals. This is why responding to proposals of others by flinching is essential. In most cases, it will work well.

You shouldn’t though act theatrical or childish, remember the limits. Showing surprise as your first reaction to a proposal works even on a phone call when a person can’t actually see you but still can judge about your emotions from your voice and words.

Summing Up the Key Points

  • React with flinching to any proposals from another side during negotiations, or in everyday life situations. A person may not really expect you to accept their conditions, but without showing surprise, you let them understand that getting more than it’s reasonable to ask for is still possible.
  • Flinching is often followed by concession. Not flinching at a proposal makes other people negotiate tougher.
  • Assume other people to be visuals until you notice something that may speak for another type of perception (auditory, kinesthetic).
  • Even if a negotiation is not happening face to face, it’s still worth gasping in surprise and shock. In most cases, flinching on the phone is also effective.

The efficacy of flinching will surprise you from the first time you try it out, even in a simple everyday situation.