You need to learn how to identify and defuse this persuasion ploy

Learn How To Deal With The Good Cop / Bad Cop Negotiation Strategy

You need to learn how to identify and defuse this persuasion ploy
You need to learn how to identify and defuse this persuasion ploy
Image Credit: jimmy thomas

In the world of negotiating, despite all of the different principled negotiation styles and negotiating techniques that get used, there are a number of tactics that have achieve classic status. One such technique is called the “good cop / bad cop” approach. You’ll encounter this when you sit down to negotiate and one member of the other side says that they really want to be able to reach an agreement with you and at the same time another member of the other side decides to present you with an outrageous, even insulting, offer. A member of the other side urges them to make a concession. This makes that member of the other side seem like a trusted friend. You find yourself taking his advice and working hard to bridge your gap with person who made the insulting offer, even proposing concessions you never intended to make. Guess what – you just fell for the good cop / bad cop tactic.

Why Good Cop / Bad Cop Works So Well

Oh, oh – why did you fall for this? Guess what – you’ve been the victim of the good cop, bad cop negotiation strategy. In a good cop, bad cop negotiation, the other side working as a team, extends a series of rewards and punishments with the goal of gaining an advantage over you. The “nice” negotiator aims to gain the target’s trust and win a concession, lest the target be stuck with the unappealing offer of the tough negotiator. A good cop, bad cop negotiation poses considerable challenges in negotiation and bargaining.

This leads to the question of why is the good cop, bad cop negotiation strategy often so effective on us? The tactic preys on our tendency to like people who agree with us and seem similar to us. This is heightened by the presence of a good guy’s demanding partner. The contrast between the two partners’ negotiating styles makes the “carrots” offered by the good cop seem even sweeter and the ‘sticks’ offered by the bad cop even harsher.

Studies have found that the good cop, bad cop negotiation strategy can be very effective at helping negotiators be successful — but only if the bad cop starts the negotiation and the good cop follows. That doesn’t mean you should try it, however. Like most types of negotiation tactics aimed at manipulation, the good cop, bad cop negotiation tactic can ultimately destroy trust between parties and harm your negotiator reputation.

Recognizing a Good Cop, Bad Cop Negotiation

The Good Cop / Bad Cop technique comes in a number of different flavors. It turns out that there are four different techniques that are really variations on the good cop / bad cop tactic:

  1. Sequential good cop, bad cop: The classic strategy in which the good cop and bad cop take turns interacting with their target.
  2. Simultaneous good cop, bad cop: The good cop and bad cop argue with each other over how good of a deal to offer the target.
  3. One person as both good cop and bad cop: A solo negotiator uses a mixture of good cop and bad cop techniques, such as switching from friendly to impatient or being indecisive about what to offer.
  4. Good cop warning about a future bad cop: A negotiator might warn that he’s giving you the best deal possible and that if you come back tomorrow, you should expect to get a worse deal from his boss.

How You Can Deal With The Good Cop, Bad Cop Negotiation Strategy

The first thing that every negotiator need to get good at doing is being able to recognize when it is being used on you. Once you see this, you then have to determine how you want to go about addressing it. The correct answer to this question is to address it head on.

When the other side starts to use the good cop / bad cop negotiation technique on you, you need to tell them that it looks like one of them is acting as the good guy and the other is acting as the bad guy. The next thing that you can tell them is that you are used to negotiating in a more straightforward manner. Finally, you can ask them if you can try to work together more collaboratively? Keep in mind mind that you may be mistaken. The two negotiators on the other side may be merely revealing their true personalities and concerns. There is a possibility that they could be offended by your statement. Therefore, a better approach might be to avoid naming the good cop, bad cop negotiation tactic and instead simply encourage greater cooperation with the shared goal of creating new sources of value.

What All Of This Means For You

In the world of negotiating, there are some things that have become so well known that everyone has heard of them. Good cop / bad cop negotiating is one such technique. This technique has become so well known because it works very well. As a negotiator, we need to be able to recognize when it is being used and know how to deal with it.

When the good cop / bad cop technique is being used on you the other side will generally present you with two different negotiators who adopt different roles. One will be very helpful and will work towards reaching an agreement with you while the other will be hostile and will present you with bad deals. This works because we really want to work with people who agree with us. In order for this to work, the bad cop has to start and is followed by the good cop. The good cop / bad cop tactic can take on four different approaches. When we are confronted with the good cop / bad cop, we need to tell the other side that we know what they are doing and ask them to be willing to work with us to reach a deal.

It can be easy to discount the good cop / bad cop technique just because it is so well known. However, we need to keep in mind that the reason that it is so well known is because it works very well. Negotiators need to be aware when this technique is being used on them and they need to take appropriate action in order to deal with it. Become aware of when the other side decides to use good cop / bad cop on you and make sure that you take the appropriate actions to make sure that you can still reach a deal with the other side.

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

Question For You: If you identify the use of the good cop / bad cop technique and the other side continues to use it, what should you do?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

When we enter into a negotiation, we are thinking about one thing: what we’d like to use our negotiation styles and negotiating techniques to get out of the negotiation. Let’s face it, we’re rather self-centered when it comes to planning how our next negotiation is going to turn out. As I’m pretty sure that we are all well aware of by now, thinking only of ourselves when it comes to negotiating can lead to some long and trying negotiations. What if there was a better way? It turns out that it is and it has a name: logrolling.

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