The Options That You Have Are Determined By Framing

When you get placed in a frame during a negotiation, know your options
When you get placed in a frame during a negotiation, know your options
Image Credit: Rishi S

More than once when I’ve been involved in a negotiation with all of its negotiation styles and negotiating techniques, there has come a point in the negotiations when the other side has put down their pen, looked at me, and said “so what’s it going to be: option A or option B?” Ouch, talk about being placed in a tight spot. However, it turns out that as a negotiator, you actually have more options.

The Art Of Creating A Frame

Every negotiation that we get ourselves involved in always has “one of those” moments. This is the time, after the discussions have gone on for a while and the other side is starting to get anxious to wrap things up. More often than not, they’ll sit down across from you and present you with an ultimatum. It’s how you react to this that is going to make all of the difference in the world.

This ultimatum can take on many different forms. However, the most common of these generally looks like this. The other side looks at you and says “look, we’ve been discussing things for quite some time and I think that we now have enough information to make a decision. What would you like to do: option 1 or option 2?” There you have it. Your world has just been framed. What the other side is trying to do is to get you to make a decision. Specifically what they want you to do is to choose between one of two options that both are good deals for the other side.

The art of the frame is to limit someone’s options. That is exactly what is happening here. The other side is trying very hard to get you to believe that in your world, in order to move forward with this deal that is being negotiated, there are only two paths – the options that they have presented to you. If they can get you to accept their frame of the situation, then you’ll be forced to choose one of the options that they have presented you with and they will have “won”. Your first order of business is to be aware of when the other side is trying to frame you.

You Always Have Another Option

In order for a frame to work, it is critically important that you buy into it. If you believe what the other side is telling you, then you only have the options that they are presenting you with This means that you are not going to be able to walk away from this negotiation with the deal that you either want or need. When you find yourself being presented with a limited set of options for how to proceed with the negotiation, this is the time for you to recognize that you are being framed and then take the appropriate action.

What you need to realize at this point in time is that you actually have many more options than the other side is presenting to you. We call this realization “breaking the frame”. Once you realize this, all of a sudden the deal that the other side has presented to you no longer appears to be the only way forward. Your realization that there is a whole wide world of options that are stretching out before you is the key to breaking the frame that is being put upon you.

When you recognize what the other side is trying to do and you realize that you actually have more options than are being presented to you, you need to take action. Specifically, you need to tell the other side of the table that you don’t believe that what they have presented to you are your only options. This is then the time for you to present another option to them. By doing this you’ll show them that you’ve broken the frame. The option that you present does not have to be the one that you want, it just has to be one that they have not suggested. This will open up the negotiations once again and will allow you to continue to make progress towards a deal that you can live with.

What All Of This Means For You

In a principled negotiation, it can be all too easy for the other side to present you with an opportunity to wrap the discussions up by making a selection between two different options. There’s a very good chance that neither of these options is a good choice for you. What’s a negotiator to do?

What you need to do is to understand what the other side is trying to do to you. They are attempting to set the frame in which you’ll make your decision. By presenting you with just two options they want you to think that you have to choose one. However, you need to remember that you have more options than have been presented to you. You can always think up other options and add them to the two that have been presented to you.

A successful negotiation means that you are able to agree on a deal that you can live with. Having the other side of the table present you with a limited set of options that do not meet your needs will not allow this to happen. You need to be able to recognize when they are creating a frame and then you need to know how to get out of it. Master this skill and you’ll always be able to end up with a deal that meets your needs.

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

Question For You: How many other options do you have to present in order to break the other side’s frame?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

I don’t know about you, but I like it when I’m able to impress other people with just how smart I am. I like to show them that I’ve researched the issues that we’re negotiating and that I have a lot of experience in this area. However, it turns out that this might be the wrong approach in certain cases. Sometimes it may be better to come across as being just a little bit dumb…