How To Deal With Negotiators Who Lie

Sometimes the other side may have a problem telling the truth
Sometimes the other side may have a problem telling the truth
Image Credit: cybaea

The goal of any negotiation is to find a way to reach an agreement with the other side of the table. The challenge that we run into during this process is that no matter what negotiation styles or negotiating techniques are being used we need to understand what the other side wants and the only way that we can get that information is if they tell us. However, sometimes we run into situations where the other side is not telling us the truth – they lie. When we find ourselves in these situations, it’s going to be even more of a challenge to reach an agreement with the other side. We need to know what action to take based on what kind of lies are being told.

Bottom Line Lies

I’m pretty sure that every time we walk into a negotiation, we have an expectation that the other side is not going to be forthcoming about a number of things. One thing in particular that we can expect them to fudge the truth on has to do with what their bottom line is. We should expect that any statements that they make about how high (or low) they are willing to go should be viewed with some suspicion.

In order to prepare for this kind of information hiding, you need to take the time before the negotiation starts to research the other side. Make sure that you understand the background for any claims that they make and see if you can talk to other negotiators to find out more about their reputation. Always make sure that you know what your alternatives to doing business with them are just in case you feel that they simply can’t be trusted enough to do a deal with.

Offers That Are Too Good To Be True

As negotiators, our goal in every negotiation is to reach the best deal possible with the other side. However, sometimes the other side is going to present you with a deal that strikes you as being just a bit too good to be fully believed. This can be especially troubling if you don’t know the people sitting on the other side very well – can you trust what they are telling you? Why would they present you with such an offer?

Their motivations can be many. One reason that a too-good-to-be-true offer might be presented would be to get you to commit to a low price which would then allow the other side to swing around and attempt to add additional deal terms that you would find to be less than desirable. As a negotiator you need to remain alert for this kind of ploy. Watch for questions from the other side that they state hypothetically such as “Would you be willing to purchase this today for X amount?” If you hear this, you need to ask for wording that is more specific and, of course, ask to see it in writing.

Expensive Deals

Negotiations can take a great deal of time, energy, and effort to complete successfully. You may find yourself in a situation where you have spent a lot of time and perhaps a lot of money to move a negotiation along towards a deal. All of sudden the other side starts to make significant changes to what is being negotiated and what they are willing to agree to.

The reason that they are doing this is because they fully understand how much you already have invested in this negotiation. They are betting that you are not going to be willing to walk away from this kind of investment empty handed. You need to be able to show a return for the investment that you’ve made. This is the time that you need to remember that you are dealing with so-called “sunk costs” here. Sunk costs, once expended, are gone forever. You need to get comfortable with the idea of walking away from a deal that is no longer a good deal for you.

No Tit-For-Tat

In order to reach a deal with the other side, we always have to make some concessions to them. When we do this, we have an expectation based on the rule of reciprocity that they will make a concession to us. The concession that they make to us has to be roughly equivalent to the one that we are making to them. Where we can run into problems is if they are not making matching concessions.

There are a couple of ways that this can happen. They may not make a concession to you when you make a concession to them. Alternatively, they make only say that they are going to make a matching concession to you and not actually do it. If you find yourself in this situation, then you need to realize that you are not going to be able to reach a deal with the other side. You need to stop the negotiations, tell the other side that you have an expectation of matching concessions, and then be willing to get up and walk away if they don’t change their ways.

Changes Once The Deal Is Done

The end of a negotiation is one of the most dangerous times for a negotiator. This is when the other side may start to try to make changes that you should not be willing to go along with. The way that this most commonly plays out is that the negotiation is getting ready to wrap up and there is a deal on the table for both sides to sign. It is at this time that the other side asks you for a small change before the signatures have been made.

The thinking behind this kind of “nibble” behavior is that you are so eager to get this deal done that you will agree to just about anything at this point in time just to get the deal signed. Once you agree to one request, you can expect several more requests to show up until you finally say no. The other side’s goal here is to make the deal as good for them as possible. What you need to do if this situation arises is to tell the other side that you won’t agree to any of their requests unless they are willing to make matching concessions to you.

What All Of This Means For You

The reason that we are willing to negotiate with people is because we believe that we can reach a deal with them. However, during the course of a principled negotiation we may discover that the other side is not being fully honest with us. If this happens, then we have to decide what action we are going to take. You need to match your actions to their level of dishonesty.

The most common form of dishonesty in a negotiation has to do with the other side’s bottom (or top) line. You are going to have to do research before the negotiations start and check with other negotiators in order to determine just how truthful you think that they will be. Sometimes when we are negotiating, the other side will present us with a deal that seems to be too good to be true. When this happens become suspicious and get it in writing. A negotiation takes a great deal of effort on your part. The other side knows this and after a while they may present you with a bad deal that they think that you won’t walk away from because of your investment in the negotiation. During a negotiation you’ll need to make concessions to the other side. When you do, make sure that they are making similar concessions to you. When the deal is almost done, keep your eyes open to see if the other side tries to slip in last minute changes because they think that you are focused on just signing the deal.

In a perfect world, the other side in a negotiation would always honest with you. Unfortunately none of us live in a perfect world and that means that we can’t always trust what the other side is telling us. When we think that they may be lying to us, we need to take an appropriate action. During your next negotiation be sure to keep your eyes open and detect if the other side starts to be less than honest with you. React correctly and you may still have a chance to reach a deal with them that you can live with.

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

Question For You: If the other side is lying to you, at what point in time do you think that you should stand up and walk away?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Negotiating is all about having a discussion with the other side while using your negotiation styles and negotiating techniques with the hope of changing the way that they see the world. As expected, this kind of change does not always happen easily – a negotiation can cause conflicts to occur. When an issue flares up and conflict resolution is required, the outcome can be predictable: the conflict gets bigger and bigger, with each side blaming the other in increasingly angry terms. The dispute may end up in litigation, and the relationship may be forever damaged. As negotiators, what we need are negotiation strategies that we can use to resolve situations like this.