In A Negotiation, Legitimacy Is Not Always As It Seems

Be careful not to believe the aura of legitimacy that the other side of the table creates during a negotiation
Be careful not to believe the aura of legitimacy that the other side of the table creates during a negotiation
Image Credit

During a negotiation you always need to be asking yourself, what’s true and what’s not? You’d think that it would be easy to keep this kind of question in mind at all times; however, it turns out that it’s not. What can happen is that false legitimacy starts to creep into the negotiation and then everything gets screwed up…

What Is False Legitimacy?

So just exactly what is this thing that we call “false legitimacy“. It turns out that it has nothing to do with the negotiation styles or negotiating techniques that are being used. Simply put, it’s when the other side of the table is able to create a situation where you take something to be a fact when in reality, it’s not a fact at all.

A good example of this would be when a product or service is being sold. If you see an ad for the item being sold and it says “normally priced at US$1,000, but for today only available at US$500” then you would naturally assume that the product was worth $1,000. However, this could be a case of false legitimacy – perhaps the product normally sells at US$10.

Another example of false legitimacy comes when you are negotiating a deal that requires formal paperwork to be signed. Often there are various state and federal forms that may go along with the deal. We all know what these forms look like and we expect to see them. However, if the other side provides the forms, just because they look correct, doesn’t mean that they are the official forms – they may have customized them for their own purposes. Yet another case of false legitimacy.

How Can You Overcome False Legitimacy?

Hopefully you’re picking up on the fact that false legitimacy is sneaky – it can show up in your next negotiation without you even noticing that it has arrived. What this means for you is that you are going to have to develop the skills that are needed to detect when false legitimacy is being used.

There are two skills related to false legitimacy that a negotiator needs to develop. The first is the ability to see beyond the other side’s attempts to hide behind false legitimacy. This means that when they present you with a price or with a formal document, you need to be questioning where it came from and if it really is legitimate.

The second skill is the ability to use false legitimacy for yourself. Consider this to be just one more negotiating tool that is available to you. A great way to do this is to become the person who controls the forms that are being used in the negotiations. This allows you to make any changes that you would like to see and it requires the other side to spot the changes that you’ve made. A much harder task!

What Does All Of This Mean For You?

Every principled negotiation is filled with its own set of challenges. The challenge of false legitimacy may be the biggest challenge of them all. As negotiators we need to constantly be reminding ourselves that all may not be as it appears.

False legitimacy may sneak into our next negotiation in a number of different ways. It could be a starting price that the other side presents to us or it could be a set of legal documents that are presented as being the “standard form”. Always be questioning everything and teach yourself to look beyond the false legitimacy in order to see what’s real.

Just because you need to make sure that you don’t get fooled by false legitimacy doesn’t mean that you can’t use it to your advantage in your next negotiation. Give some thought to what the other side might accept as fact if it was presented correctly. Create documents or facts and try them out. Perhaps you can tame the false legitimacy beast and harness it to work for you!

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

Question For You: Do you think that the other side of the table is going to become upset when you start questioning everything that they say?

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

Quiz: what is the purpose of any negotiation? Answer: to reach a deal with the other side. Now, if that’s your goal, then no matter what negotiation styles or negotiating techniques are used during the negotiations, the other side has to be in a position to agree to implement whatever deal you reach, right? If this is correct, then it must be important that the person sitting across the table from you has the authority to implement any deal that you are able to reach with them. Do you know if they do – are they the right person to be negotiating with?

Leave a Comment