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"How do we properly handle or use the ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ tactic? Jeffrey – Retail Industry

Thank you for you for your question Jeffrey as it gives us an opportunity to shed light onto one of negotiation’s commonly misused and mishandled tactics.

Taxonomy and Occurrence

Technically speaking, take-it-or-leave-it belongs to a cluster of tactics within the ‘war quadrant’ of the negotiation atmosphere or ‘nego-sphere’ for short. It is usually deployed to inject a higher degree of forcefulness. Its spectrum ranges from bullying, to calculated attempts to hasten negotiation pace, and on the far end, because of emotionally-induced reactions to frustration over lack of progress.  Oftentimes this tactic is meant to corner one’s counterpart to a point of non-existent choice.

What is disturbing though is that, there seems to be a high frequency of irrational deployments by clueless negotiators, who use this tactic simply for lack of understanding of negotiation processes as well as due to lack of items in their tactical arsenal! Alarmingly, prevalent misuse can be attributed to blind mimicry. Absent proper framework, tactics borrowed from predecessors, superiors or even from counterparts get anachronistically deployed, unaware of the tactic’s deadly potency to degenerate what would have been positively concluded agreements to unwarranted deadlocks.

Appropriate Usage

Rationally the take-it-or-leave-it tactic has a proper context and timing of usage. The following factors primordially come into consideration: desired nego-sphere, negotiating personality and style of counterparts and stage of negotiation. 

Strategically-prepared negotiators are cognizant of the fact that they can influence the nego-sphere by controlling various components. One of those components happens to be, confining tactics deployment to those that can be drawn from the families of ploys within the desired quadrants of the nego-sphere.  To illustrate, if the strategic negotiator wishes to stay away from the war quadrant, owing to lack of confrontational power or simply to avoid relationship friction, using the take-it-or-leave-it tactic will be inimical to his purpose. On the other hand if playing within the war quadrant is part of his strategy, then the take-it-or-leave-it tactic is logically an option on his offense book.

Another critical consideration is the negotiating personality and style of one’s counterpart. Well-trained negotiators guided with tools can profile and plausibly predict how his counterpart will react given certain stimulus. Less dominant personalities will likely, albeit remorsefully acquiesce to demands while more dominant personalities will respond defensively, if not counter-offensively when threatened. In parallel dimension, being cornered elicits varied reactions, depending on where one lies in the rational-emotional spectrum.

Timing of use is also a critical factor. Used prematurely the take-it-or-leave-it tactic manifests as bullying. Bluntly translated, the party that perceives it has power uses such to plough his way to a forced agreement. This coercive action even if submitted to, leaves a rust-bitter taste in the vanquished party’s mouth, and will likely result to either a clandestine or overt retaliation, if and when the tables of power have turned.

Systematic Handling

The Take-it-or-leave-it, tactic has to be treated like a trap. In most instances, you should neither take it nor leave it! To do either one, is to fall prey to the trapper or to deadlock, often times to the detriment of both parties. The most logical move is to side-step the entrapment attempt. How is this done? Instead of choosing whether to accept the only option offered or to call it a deadlock, one can simply say, “let us not rush to a conclusion, but instead, let us look at the situation more thoroughly.” One can even add, “I personally believe there is more to our discussion, when explored that can yield us both better outcomes.” Of course, use words you are comfortable with. The objective of side-stepping is to open new avenues of discussion, thereby avoiding the deadly boxing corner. The next step involves proceeding to explore other options from either side. However, in case the entrapper is persistent, reach out and try to understand why he is insistent on the only option he is offering. Then provide alternatives to satisfy his intent without having to agree to his offer. By increasing the number of options, you have effectively diluted the effectiveness of the trap.

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About the Author

Rowen Untivero is a Partner and Chief Sales Strategist of Mansmith and Fielders, Inc., the country’s leading marketing, sales, strategy and innovation training company.  Rowen developed the world’s first Nego-mathematics, strategic Nego-mapping, and 3D Influencing Language Wheel. He has been injecting much practicable science into negotiations, selling and management for more than a quarter of a century. Please send your questions, comments or feedback to info@mansmith.net.

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