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Using The Tit-For-Tat Approach To Counteract Opponent Nibbling

By Charles B. Craver

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How often have you been negotiating a business deal or the resolution of a dispute and encountered the following tactic? As the parties move toward a final agreement, the other side demands several changes in the terms seemingly agreed upon. Or you achieve a formal accord, but several days later, before the agreement is finalized, the opposing representative contacts you to request one or two modifications based upon the unexpected demands of their principal. What do most persons do when presented with such belated demands? They generally accede to them, based upon the fact they are psychologically committed to a deal and do not want everything to fall apart over these seemingly minor changes.


Individuals who employ this bargaining tactic are classified as "nibblers", because they nibble the other side for several last minute unreciprocated concessions. Why does the nibble technique work so effectively? Due to the fact the persons being nibbled ask themselves the incorrect question. They ask themselves if their side is going to let the entire deal collapse over these changes. What they should do is appreciate the fact the opposing parties are as psychologically committed to a deal as they are, and ask themselves if they think that side will let the agreement fall through over the requested modifications.

Several years ago, I was talking with a corporate lawyer in Philadelphia, and he told me that at the conclusion of his business deals he always demands several final concessions. When I characterized him as a "nibbler" and explained that concept, he acknowledged that he was such a negotiator and indicated that he almost always got the final changes he desired.

Can the nibble approach be employed when the only issue being discussed is money? Absolutely! As the parties are about to reach agreement, the nibbler demands one final monetary change. That person may alternatively accept the amount agreed upon, but subsequently indicate that their principal has to have a final change before the accord can be executed. As a mediator of employment law controversies, I have seen this tactic used successfully to increase or decrease the final amount to be paid. The party being nibbled simply thinks that it would be economically and psychologically costly not to give in to the seemingly slight alteration involved.

Using the Tit-for-Tat Approach to Counteract Opponent Nibbling by Charles B. Craver


Copyright © 2013 Charles B. Craver
Copyright ©   2013  The Negotiator Magazine
The Negotiator Magazine  November 2013