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2010-12-28 16:06:21

The Threat Mechanism

Hello Good Negotiators

Of all the mechanisms we will review, I suspect few will make us more uncomfortable than the Threat Mechanism. We inherently dislike threats whether we receive them or give them.

Threats are, however, part of negotiations regardless of our

feelings toward them. Keep an open mind toward them for they are a

part of every great negotiator's array of tools.


The Threat Mechanism


Most people who shy away from the threat mechanism do so because they don't understand what constitutes a threat. For negotiators, a threat isn't about bullying or planning physical harm. It is more about rewards withheld or opportunities lost. If you still find discomfort with the term threat, then substitute the word consequence.

The threat or consequence mechanism for negotiators only works when it is a part of one's overall strategy, when it is credible and when one is fully prepared to fulfill that threat.

Think of the situations where threats can be and are employed.

To our children, "Do that again and we're going home."

When children hear threats that they've heard before and know won't be acted upon, the threat mechanism falls flat. Worse yet, failing to fulfill a threat actually weakens one's position should additional negotiations or bargaining take place. It would actually be better to not make the threat than to fail to fulfill it.

To a salesman, "We have purchased these from you for years, but if you can't better that price, I'll have to look elsewhere."

Threats can be effective when we think we are being taken for granted. Repeat customers often fall into that category. Taking our business elsewhere is an option that provides an effective threat. Remember, failing to follow through on that threat, if necessary, is a disastrous mistake.

The framework for a threat is often, "If you don't do _____ for me then I'll have to ____." Threats should be preplanned and carefully formulated before being injected into a negotiation.

We might want to start by conveying threats that are low risk (to

us) but that demonstrate to our commitment to follow through. The message sent by an executed threat will influence future negotiations to our benefit.

One additional characteristic describe effective threats.

That is consistency. Being hard, fast and tough one time, then being soft and flexible another time erodes any positive impact of threats.

Good negotiators aren't threatening, they just employ threats and clearly communicate consequences in order to send messages, influence their opponents and produce win-win results.

You better KEEP Negotiating or else. (That's a threat!)

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