Negotiating Tip 51: Feinting and Misdirection

Written by John Hamilton Posted On Sunday, 16 January 2022 00:00

You probably know what misdirection is. Now feinting, as defined in Wikipedia, is "a maneuver to distract or deceive". What do these terms have to do with good faith negotiating? Well, it is meant to confuse your opponent.

We've mentioned before that good negotiators are often like chess players in that they plan and strategize a number of moves ahead. If you're getting into planning a few moves down the negotiating trail then you might find the feint or misdirection a key element in an early move.

Feinting sends a message that you want to go in one direction, but in actuality, you really want to go somewhere else. The feint (some like the word 'fake' better) captures the focus of your opponent with the hope that they will be open to going in another direction. Unknown to them, the other direction was your core objective all along.

• Let's say a key employee approaches his or her boss about wanting a promotion when the real objective is that they just want a raise. If the promotion becomes possible the raise is likely to occur too. If the promotion isn't possible a key employee could be appeased by getting a raise or bonus.

• We see it constantly when politicians 'leak' a plan on a pending proposal. It's typically done by that famous 'un-named source' so they can test the plan's acceptability to the electorate before a final decision is made.

• A child can ask for something they know they'll never get in hopes that a lesser concession can be achieved. They ask for a tattoo when all they really want is a new outfit. The parent is thrilled to 'buy off the tattoo' with money for clothes.

Taking negotiations strongly in one direction with hopes that things will find smooth sailing in another has worked for years.

Consider the feint or misdirection when you're seeking a concession or even when you're defending pressure to grant one. If we can get our opponent off their primary focus, we can achieve much. Likewise, if we can maintain our focus, regardless of initial posturing, we can effectively defend a feint or misdirection employed by another.

Good negotiators know how to play the game, including the feint, as they KEEP Negotiating.

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