Keep Your Negotiation Moving By Making A Token Concession

A token concession can prompt reciprocation
A token concession can prompt reciprocation
Image Credit: Ari Herzog

As negotiators we all understand that one of the most powerful tools that we have are concessions. However, it’s how we view concessions that really matters. All too often a negotiator can come to view concessions as being a big deal – they are something that has value to us and making a concession that really means something is going to end up costing us something in terms of money, time, or something else. However, this is where we may be wrong. It turns out that we can often keep a negotiation moving along simply by making a token concession. This type of concession costs us very little, but it can make a big impact on our negotiation.

Token Concessions In The Real World

The power of a token concession is that it can inspire reciprocation in the other side and the result of this will be that it gets us much closer to our negotiating goals. As negotiators we need to realize that many cultures have a strong norm of reciprocity—they have the impulse to return a favor. During a negotiation, if you offer a concession, even a token concession, the other party probably will feel a powerful drive to reciprocate with a concession of their own. A token concession, or gift, can be a strong motivator of reciprocal behavior.

So just exactly how does one go about delivering a token concession? One of the simplest ways to create a token concession that can be provided to the other side is to take action before the we start to use our negotiation styles and negotiating techniques. The negotiations have to be held somewhere and at some time. If you are willing to do so, allow the other side to choose both the time and the location of the first negotiating session. This will allow this discussion to take place in their office perhaps instead of yours.

An additional way to make a token concession to the other side is to bring doughnuts and coffee to the negotiation to share with the other side. It’s a small gesture, but it can have a big impact. Finally, when the actual negotiations start, go ahead and agree to an initial small request that has been made by the other side. This will place them in your debt and will boost your chances of getting the deal that you want.

How To Offer A Token Concession

Any negotiator can offer a token concession to the other side. However, if you don’t go about doing this correctly, then your effort won’t be acknowledged, appreciated, and reciprocated. In order to make this happen, you are going to have to go about doing it correctly. One of the most important things that you are going to have to do as a negotiator is to remember your code of ethics. The reason for this is because in business relationships, a token concession can risk resembling a bribe if you appear to have expectations of a quid pro quo exchange of favors. We need to be careful and before offering a token concession, consider whether your terms could be viewed as unethical, illegal, or otherwise unfair to others. Although you may want the other side to do something for you, try to give without an expectation of receiving in return.

In order to create a token concession that will be well received by the other side, you are going to want to take the time to try to figure out what the other side wants. What you are going to want to make sure does not happen is that you don’t want the other side feel as though they have to reciprocate your offer of a token concession. Their reasons for feeling this way can be many and different, but the most common is that you are the more powerful party. You do want them to reciprocate, you just don’t want them to feel as though they have to. As you create your token concession, spend some time thinking about what you think that the other side really wants and then attempt to figure out if it is even going to be possible for you to give it to them.

When you are getting ready to make a token concession to the other side, you may want to take the time to show the other side what you are up to. Prior to the other side being provided with an opportunity to accept a token concession that you have made to them, take the time to explain to them just exactly why you are offering it to them. In the case that you are asking them for something in return, make sure that you state that very clearly. In a perfect world, you’d be able to offer your token concession to the other side with the simple goal of generating good will with with them instead of trying to obtain any specific concrete reward from them.

What All Of This Means For You

Negotiators never want the negotiations that they are involved in to come to a grinding halt. We are always looking for a way to keep things moving forward. It turns out that one of the most powerful tools that we have to make this happen is the token concession. This is a concession on our part that really doesn’t mean all that much to us, but which may mean a great deal to the other side.

The reason that token concessions can be so powerful is because they inspire reciprocation in the other side. We’ve done something for them and so they now feel an obligation to do something for us. There are lots of ways to make token concessions. Letting the other side pick the location and the time of the negotiations is one way to make a token concession. Other ways include bringing doughnuts and coffee or agreeing to a small request at the start of the negotiations. When making token concessions remember your code of ethics and don’t explicitly ask for something in return. Make sure that you understand what the other side wants and make sure that you’ve communicated to them very clearly what you are up to.

Making sure that your next principled negotiation does not get stuck is a key part of being a negotiator. Using token concessions is one way to keep things moving. Make sure that both you and the other side understand what is going on when you use them. The concessions will be appreciated and the other side should then help you to move closer to the deal that you are trying to create.

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

Question For You: When do you think that you should use the good cop / bad cop tactic on the other side?

Click here to get automatic updates when The Accidental Negotiator Blog is updated.
P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental Negotiator Newsletter are now available. Learn what you need to know to do the job. Subscribe now: Click Here!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

When we are engaged in a negotiation, no matter what negotiation styles or negotiating techniques are being used we can make the mistake of falling into common cognitive traps if we are not careful. These traps are sneaky and if we are not on the lookout for them then they can sneak up on us and they’ll end up holding us back from accomplishing what we are trying to do in this negotiation. When we do this, we end up making the negotiation that we are involved in more difficult than it has to be. In order to prevent this from happening, we need to learn how to identify the four different traps.