The Negotiator Magazine

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  1. “Nibble” Technique

            A few negotiators agree to “final” terms with apparent client approval. Their opponents are pleased with the agreements and inform their clients of the good news. Several days later, these bargainers contact their opponents with seeming embarrassment and explain that their clients have to have several “slight changes” before the agreements can become final. Since their unsuspecting opponents are psychologically committed to final agreements and do not wish to allow these modifications to negate their prior efforts, they give in to the requested changes. This allows the nibblers to obtain post-agreement concessions that are not reciprocated by themselves.

            Individuals confronted by nibbler opponents need to be “provocable” if they wish to avoid exploitation. When their opponents inform them of the necessity for modifications, they should demand reciprocity. They should indicate that their clients have some qualms of their own and suggest that they can accommodate the changes being requested if their concerns can be simultaneously satisfied.

            If the persons demanding post-agreement changes are actually sincere and their clients really have to have several changes, they will recognize the principle of reciprocity and make concessions in exchange for the modifications they are seeking. If they are disingenuously employing the nibble technique to extract unreciprocated, post-agreement concessions and they are confronted with demands for reciprocity, they will most likely realize that they are better off accepting the original terms agreed upon. They will withdraw their demands for post-agreement modifications.

  1. Decreasing Offers/Increasing Demands

 

            During the preliminary stages of some negotiations, a few attorneys make fairly realistic offers or demands they say must be accepted by specific dates. They make it clear that if their offers are not accepted by those dates, they will either withdraw those offers entirely or begin to reduce the amounts being offered or increase the amounts being demanded. They hope to employ this tactic to intimidate less proficient opponents to cave in to their positions.

            It can be entirely appropriate for negotiators to establish firm dates by which time their offers must be accepted or withdrawn – especially where their principals have other options they may decide to explore. The major risk associated with this tactic concerns the fact their adversaries may not yet be prepared to make binding determinations on such a limited time line. As a result, deals that might have been consummated may be lost.

            Over the past several years, I have seen a harsh change in this technique. Persons making opening offers not only set time limits, but also indicate that if their offers are not accepted they will demand more or offer less. This is an extremely risky approach to bargaining. When other parties begin to move away from their starting positions, this will induce most persons to move toward their nonsettlement alternatives. They either prepare for the trial of litigation matters or look for other business deals.

 

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February 2007