Negotiating Tip 80: The Flinch

Written by John Hamilton Posted On Sunday, 31 July 2022 00:00

What’s your signature flinch? Develop one and use it!

The Truth

Realize this truth, negotiations don't begin until one party reacts to the proposal of another. We know that all negotiations and most human interactions involve someone making a suggestion, an offer or a proposal.  The question is what's the appropriate response?  I'd suggest that every offer or proposal should be 'flinched' by the receiving party. The type and style of the flinch can and should be structured to match the situation, your relationship with your opponent and with the worthiness of the proposal. 

Animated facial expressions can be great flinches.  A quick grimace.  A wince or pained look.  A quick audible gasp.  A squint.  A fast hand to mouth.  Eyes suddenly wide open with eyebrows raised.  There are many others.  Just watch your kids for a display of great ones.  

A spoken or verbal response can communicate a flinch too.  Responses such as, "You're not serious, are you?",  "Oh, wow!" or "How much did you say?" 

Good negotiators are always expanding their menu of modest and dramatic flinches.

Why react to a proposal with a flinch?  Think of it this way, if you didn't flinch an offer or proposal the other party would immediately think that they should have asked for more.  

If a seller asked $1,000 for an item and you, the buyer, just looked calm and collected, it's like you're approving their price.  That's not the message you want to send if you're looking for a discount.

On the other hand, a quick pained face would communicate that you think the price is too high and make the seller feel uneasy.  If, after ponderous consideration, you did accept the $1,000 figure because you thought it a good price, the seller would think that they were lucky to get that and this turned out to be a really 'good deal' for them. 

Some people don't or won't flinch even if a proposal warrants one.  These people think its disingenuous or 'play acting'.   I disagree.  Communicating a  negative reaction protects your interests and keeps your opponent from setting an anchor.  Now don't go overboard and get too dramatic, but with forethought and practice, everyone can develop their own style of comfortable flinching. 

Once you observe a few flinches and offer a few yourself, you'll actually develop what I call a flinch momentum.  

Now progress to the next skill, anticipate flinches, recognizing flinches and becoming effective at a flinch counter or defense.

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