The Negotiator Magazine

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  1. Mutt and Jeff

            The Mutt and Jeff routine is one of the most common – and often effective – negotiation tactics. One seemingly reasonable negotiator softens opponent resistance by thanking them for their kind treatment and requesting seemingly modest proposals. Opponents are pleased to give them what they are seeking. As soon as they do, however, the unreasonable partners of these persons completely trash these concessions and demand substantial changes. When the opponents are about to explode, the “good cops” calm their “bad cop” partners and request additional concessions. When they obtain better terms, the bad cops attack the new offers being made. As obvious as this Mutt and Jeff technique can be, it is amazing how often negotiators succumb to these tactics. They work so hard to please the bad cops that they fail to appreciate how effectively they have been fleeced.

            Most people confronted with Mutt and Jeff opponents make the mistake of arguing entirely with the bad cops. What they should do is focus on the good cops. When these seemingly reasonable persons indicate they would accept the terms if a couple of modest changes were made, they should be directly asked if they would agree if these modifications were made. They should be forced to say “yes” or “no.” Once it becomes clear that they will not say “yes” without the concurrence of their bad cop partners, the game is over and they have to change tactics.

  1. Belly Up

 

            Some sly negotiators emulate the Lt. Columbo  character created by Peter Falk and act like bumbling idiots. They say that they don’t know anything about these types of interactions and indicate a willingness to allow their “fair and knowledgeable” opponents to determine what would be appropriate for both sides. They hope to lull unsuspecting opponents into careless disclosures and concessions intended to help these seemingly inept bargainers. In the end, these Brer Rabbit negotiators leave with everything, and their opponents are so glad they could help solve their problems. These are highly manipulative negotiators. Individuals should never feel sorry for seemingly incompetent adversaries. They should ignore such behavior and execute their planned negotiation strategy. If such opponents seem willing to give into their demands, they should take advantage of their willingness to be exploited. Once those people realize that their technique is not working, they will end their charade and act more normally.

 

Charles B. Craver is the Freda H. Alverson Professor at the George Washington University Law School. He is the author of Effective Legal Negotiation and Settlement (5th ed. 2005 LEXIS) and The Intelligent Negotiator (2002 Prima/Crown), and coauthor of Alternative Dispute Resolution: The Advocate’s Perspective (3rd ed. 2006 LEXIS). Over the past thirty years, he has taught negotiating skills to over 75,000 lawyers throughout the Untied States and in Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Austria, England, Germany, and China. He can be reached at ccraver@law.gwu.edu

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February 2007