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The Dark-Side of Negotiation

There are those that would use the negotiation for nefarious means. One such person was so bold to even contact me directly the other day and said thank you for giving them the tools they need to “trick” more people into doing what they want.

Unfortunately, people like this exist. I know, I used to be one. Some industries and corporate cultures breed this type of behavior and even encourage it. Eventually, this type of toxic behavior erodes any trust the counter party has in you and your organization. The relationship grinds to a halt after the series of diminishing returns evaporates. After which the guilty party, who is usually emotionally illiterate, says something like, “Looks like we can’t rely on this counter party to keep delivering value to our organization. We should probably start looking for someone else.”

Some would rather learn the short-cuts to delivering value. Unfortunately, there is no short-cut to delivering long-term value. Taking short-cuts to delivering value reinforces the dark-side of negotiation. The dark-side of negotiation uses manipulation and coercion to repeatedly extract value. Followers of the dark-side are only focused on taking, only focused on pulling value out of the relationship.

The dark-side can be attractive. Sometimes corporate metrics even encourage this type of behavior. Often, bonuses are are sometimes even allocated to those who generate great short-term results by using the powers of the dark-side. But, in the long term, it erodes trust and any motivation for mutual cooperation and eventually the party you’re negotiating with finds a way to fight back and get their money back or they leave.

Use your powers for good!

As a confession, it can be more difficult. And at times it may seem not worth it. You see, it requires all the things that short-cuts do not. It requires patience, honesty, trust, focus, curiosity, and an incredible effort to build mutual cooperation using positive influence.

By using your power for good you need to intentionally reinforce value creation (not extraction). It takes more effort, yes, but the creation of long-term mutual value always far exceeds the value extraction behavior of the dark-side.

But how can you tell the difference between the two when you’re negotiating with someone? That’s a difficult question to answer. Some practitioners of the dark arts are so good that they would have you believe that they are helping you and some are even so deep that they actually believe that they are helping you. This is kind of a shitty answer, but it comes down to time behind the wheel to start to recognize behavior associated to the dark-side.

In the end, you can only rely upon doing the right thing yourself and it all comes down to intention. You see, as my friend, Josh Steimle, recently wrote, the difference between negative manipulation and positive influence is intention.

If your intentions are pure and you search for mutually beneficial solutions and use positive influence to get there, then you are approaching the negotiation with the right frame of reference. But if you approach the negotiation to manipulate to ‘get your own way’ and to extract value, you’re creating a relationship that will ultimately be founded on mistrust and exploitation. ​

In the end, it becomes a choice. You can choose to use your powers for good or for evil. The choice is yours.