Why Negotiators Should Put A Dead Dog On The Table

by drjim on March 6, 2015

To get your way in a negotiation, perhaps you should put a dead dog on the table

To get your way in a negotiation, perhaps you should put a dead dog on the table
Image Credit: rubyblossom.

Our goal as negotiators in our next negotiation is to get the other side of the table to agree to our proposals no matter what negotiation styles or negotiating techniques are being used. Unfortunately, all too often they don’t like what we are proposing and they decide to hold out to see if they can get us to offer them a better deal. We’d really like to find a way to prevent this from happening. That exactly where placing a dead dog on the negotiating table just might help you to get what you want…

Say Hello To Your Dead Dog

So here’s the problem that all too often we come face-to-face with in a negotiation: the other side wants more from us. Specifically, the deal that has currently been offered to them is not enough – they believe that they can get more from us. The reasons for this thinking can be many, but generally this happens early on in a negotiation and our initial offer is always seen as that – an initial offer.

We can’t allow this to happen. We need a strategy that will convince the other side to accept our offer. One way to make this happen is for you to bring a dead dog to the negotiation and place it on the negotiating table. No, no, no – I’m not talking about actually placing a dead dog on the table. Instead, what I’m going to suggest that you do is to present the other side with a deal that you just know that they’ll never accept.

Once you do this, fight very hard to get them to accept it. Pull out all of the stops – tell them that this is the deal that you just must have. Cry, pound your fists, yell, do whatever you think is necessary to get them to say “yes”. Of course, they won’t. When you finally reach a point where you’ve tried everything and they just have not budged, now is the time to give in.

It’s Always Good To Have A Backup Plan

The reason that you made this proposal that you knew that they would never accept was because you wanted to set the stage for the proposal that you do want them to accept. The second proposal that you’ll make to them is the one that you want them to accept; however, they won’t know that. When you finally do present your second proposal to the other side, they’ll be thrilled to see it simply because it will appear to be so much more reasonable than your first proposal.

This is what is called the “dead dog on the table” strategy. Getting the other side to accept the proposal that you really wanted them to accept is a well proven strategy. What’s being used here is called the negotiating “theory of relativity” – the second proposal appears to be acceptable in relation to the first one. Because you made a concession to them by eventually being willing to walk away from your dead dog proposal, they’ll feel even more obligated to accept your second proposal.

What All Of This Means For You

The one thing that we would really like to avoid in our next principled negotiation is having the other side reject our proposal because they think that we’ll make them better offer. In order to prevent this from happening, sometimes it’s a good move to place a dead dog on the negotiating table.

By this I mean that you should make an outrageous proposal to the other side that you know that they’ll never accept. You then need to argue very passionately to see if you can get them to accept it – and they won’t. Eventually, you’ll give in and then you’ll make an alternative proposal that they’ll quickly accept because they see how reasonable it is in comparison to your dead dog proposal.

This careful manipulation of the other side is very legal. What you are really trying to do is to open their eyes to just how reasonable the deal that you want them to agree to is. By using the dead dog approach you can streamline the negotiating process and get to a final deal quicker than you would otherwise. Who would have ever thought that a dead dog could be so useful?

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

Question For You: How long do you think that you should spend arguing for your dead dog proposal to be accepted?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

You would think that when we start a negotiation that we’d know what we wanted to accomplish no matter what negotiation styles or negotiating techniques were being used. However, all too often this is not the case. What seems to trip us up is not having a clear understanding of just exactly what our “bottom line” is. We think that we know, but we really don’t. What can we do to make sure that we know what our bottom line is before we start our next negotiation?

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