The Negotiator Magazine

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The Bottom Line

Deception is a reality at the negotiating table, whether we like it or not. It is unlikely that participants to a negotiation will ever come to the table willing to openly share the weaknesses of their position or candidly disclose their bottom line. Becoming familiar with the signs (strategic and non-strategic) that are displayed by deceivers will undoubtedly improve your ability to discern the truth, or lack thereof.  These cues will provide you with a roadmap when faced with the situation where your adversary claims that they’ll leave the negotiation unless you pay more or take less, or conceals facts that help your case and hurt theirs, or misrepresents whether they have the authority to reach a deal.

A word of caution while deception hunting: If you approach your negotiations with a heightened sense of vigilance and motivation to detect the truth, your state of doubt and distrust is likely to be quickly identified by the sophisticated deceiver. Once he or she picks up on your suspicions, the deceiver will attempt to manage his or her behavior in order to reduce and mask the cues that might reveal the deception.1 To remain ahead of the deceiver, continue your vigilance toward their deceptive tactics but
Conceal your suspicions as much as possible.

            Deciphering deceit, much like the game of chess, is about assessing your opponent and the strategy they’re implementing to achieve their goals. With the tools we’ve outlined in this article, you’re sure to increase your chances of detecting deception … using the deceiver’s body language to stay one move ahead of your opponent at all times.

Jeffrey Krivis and Mariam Zadeh are full-time mediators with First Mediation Corporation in Encino, CA, specializing in complex litigated disputes. Krivis is the author of Improvisational Negotiation(Jossey-Bass, 2006) and adjunct professor at the Straus Institute forDispute Resolution at PepperdineLawSchool. Zadeh joined Krivis' mediation practice in 2005 and recently completed her LL.M. in ADR from PepperdineLawSchool.

1 Buller, Supra note 16; Buller, D. B., Strzyzewski, K. D., & Comstock, J. (1991) Interpersonal deception: I. Deceivers’ reactions to receivers’ suspicions and probing. Communication Monographs, 58, 1 – 24.

Copyright © 2006, Jeffrey Krivis and Mariam Zadeh


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June 2006