Halloween - 9 Rapport Building and Fear Inducing Negotiation Tactics

Katie Cook


by Katie Cook

Halloween costumes ghost witch and zombie

Trick or treat: What negotiation tactics are we teaching our children in allowing them to participate in the trick or treat tradition?

There are numerous negotiation tactics.  Some work because they serve to lighten the mood, build trust and make those involved in the process comfortable and more likely to work to find a solution and more honest about their true position.  Other tactics work though fear.  Those on the receiving end of these tactics engage in the process because they fear negative consequences if they do not.  

Rapport building tactics include:

1. Building rapport: Being warm and friendly and sharing openly and honestly about yourself.  This does not need to be sharing anything of importance about your negotiating position, but could be as simple as talking about where you went on the weekend;

2. Mirroring: Actively listening to your opponent and repeating back your perception of their    position can be helpful in building rapport;

3. Humor: If used correctly humor can be an excellent tool in helping all those involved in the process to relax and more likely to enter into amicable dialogue to reach a mutually beneficial solution;

4. Flirting: This is defined as ‘to behave or act amorously without emotional commitment; toy or play with another's affections’. It is a proven positive technique for women in the negotiation process, but its use is controversial.  Some look down upon flirting for business gain.

Fear inducing tactics include:

5. Blackmail - Inducing someone to bargain with you by threatening them with negative consequences, if they don’t accept your terms and conditions;

6. Feining a walk-out - Pretending to back out of a deal just as the agreement is almost completed.  At this stage, the opposing party is psychologically in the position to close the deal and may be willing to lower their price or position just to ensure the deal still closes.  

7. Flinching - Showing shock or amazement at an issue that has been raised or a price or terms that have been offered. This can cause the opposing party to fear you may cease negotiating, if they don’t back down from their demands.

8. Re-trading the deal - The opposite party attempts to reopen points once the agreement has been reached.  Similar to feining a walk-out, this scenario can cause the opposing party to lower their demands to ensure the deal is closed.

9. Snow job - A member of the other party talks a lot without saying anything substantive about the real issues - bringing in unnecessary information in to support their position.  This tactic can cause the opposing party to back down from their position due to feeling overwhelmed and fearful of the excessive amount of information.

Trick or treat - Rapport building or fear inducing or a mix of both?

When we dress children up in cute or scary Halloween outfits, and tell them to go to neighbors’ houses threatening to play a “trick” on them if they do not provide a “treat”, we are theoretically teaching them the art of blackmail; that an effective way for them to bargain for what they want is to threaten the counter-party with fear.  However, we all know that in practice that is not the case. The adults opening the door are not threatened by these children for the most part.

Is it rather the case that in practice we are teaching them to negotiate making others comfortable, by appealing to their cuteness and using humor - teaching them to share of themselves to reach a desired outcome?  Or is it the case that we are in fact teaching them about the complex nature of negotiation - that rapport building and fear inducing tactics can be mixed, blurred to achieve self-interest?  What are your thoughts?  What are the best negotiating tactics to use?

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About the author

Katie Cook

Katie Cook

Katie Cook is Director of Marketing, Communications and Legal Standards at ContractRoom. Originally from the east coast of Australia, she has a background as an Attorney having practiced in both public and private practice in Brisbane and Melbourne. Katie completed studies in journalism and is now combining her legal and writing skill sets in her role.

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