How Negotiators Can Use “Take It Or Leave It”

"Take It Or Leave It" are powerful words – know how to use them
“Take It Or Leave It” are powerful words – know how to use them
Image Credit: Arielle Nadel

In every negotiation we can reach a point where we’re done. We’ve said what we needed to say. We’ve made all of the concessions that we plan on making. We think that the other side has given us as much as they are going to give us. Investing any more time in this negotiation or using any more negotiation styles or negotiating techniques would be foolish. We need to let the other side know that now is the time for them to make a decision – do they want to do a deal or not?

The Danger Of Saying “Take It Or Leave It”

When we reach what we believe to be the end of a negotiation, we find ourselves faced with a communication problem. We need to let the other side of the table know that we think that we’re done. We want to make sure that they are not planning on continuing to negotiate because we want to wrap things up.

One thing that we can do is to tell the other side to “take it or leave it”. However, if we do this, we have basically dropped a bomb on our negotiations. The other side will hear this as an ultimatum. You need to understand how people react when they hear an ultimatum – they instinctively push back. They will feel as though you are trying to force them into making a decision. Nobody likes this and when you say this, there is a very good chance that you will have motivated them to walk away from the negotiations.

You want to make sure that they understand that you are all done with this negotiation; however, you don’t want to have them walk away and throw away what you’ve spent so much time working on. The problem is that you’ve just used so-called fighting words and the other side is going to react as though you have just offered to fight them. What is needed is a better way to communicate what you want to say without causing the other side to react in such a negative manner.

How To Say “Take It Or Leave It” Correctly

There’s no doubt about what we want to tell the other side of the table. However, it sure seems that “how” we tell it to them may turn out to be very important. What we need to do is to find a way to communicate our message in a way that will come across as being less belligerent. That is, unless you are willing to have your negotiations end without achieving a deal.

One way to communicate the meaning of “take it or leave it” without actually saying these words, is to rephrase it. One of the more powerful ways to go about doing this is to tell the other side “I have other offers.” What you can tell them is that you are willing to give them an opportunity to match the other offers that you’ve been given if they want to continue working towards reaching a deal.

You’ll have to be careful if you choose to use this technique. It will be important that you be able to add some legitimacy to what you are saying. If the other side starts to ask you for more information on the other offers that you’ve been presented with, you can simply tell them that the details are all back at your office. You can offer to show them to them if they want to see them. If they say that they do want to see the other offers, then you’ll have to get creative regarding why you can’t show them to them (my dog ate them, etc.).

What All Of This Means For You

No principled negotiation was ever meant to go on and on forever. In every negotiation you will reach a point where you are done. You’ve had enough. You believe that it’s time for the negotiation to come to an end. When this happens you may be tempted to tell the other side to “take it or leave it”.

The problem with using this phrase or anything even close to it is that it is going to cause quite the reaction from the other side of the table. Once they hear it, their defenses are going to come up and you’ll be looking at the very real possibility that they may just walk away from the negotiations. In order to still get your point across while not sinking the negotiations, you need to use different phrasing. One great replacement is “I have other offers”.

So much of successful negotiating has to do with carefully managing the reactions of the other side. The powerful phrase “take it or leave it” can cause a lot of reactions that will not help you to achieve what you want to accomplish. Instead, take the time to say the same thing, just in a different way. When you are able to reach a deal with the other side, your careful phrasing will have been all worth it.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Negotiating Skills™

Question For You: If the other side does start to leave because of your other offers, what can you say to get them to stay?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

What’s your approach to negotiation styles and negotiating techniques? Are you an “all in” sort of person? Are you out to “win” this negotiation no matter what the cost to either you or the other side turns out to be? I’ve got some issues with negotiators who take that position, but if this is the path that you choose to follow, then you need to be aware of one very important thing that you need to do in your next negotiation: you’ve always got to leave a way out of the negotiation.