Monday, August 25, 2008

Negotiation 101

One of the most common negotiating techniques that movie characters employ is to question whether their enemy really wants to do what he is threatening to. Here's a typical encounter:

Character A: "I'm calling state police in five minutes. They'll be here in ten."
Character B: "Thought you would've done that by now. You know why you haven't? Because you think this might be an irreparable mistake. Because deep inside you, you know it doesn't matter what the rules say. When the lights go out, and you ask yourself 'is she better off here or better off there', you know the answer."

Here's the structure of it. Character A makes a threat, and character B doesn't want him to go through with the threat, so he tries to instill some doubt in character A.

Character B is playing on character A's cognitive dissonance. The idea is that if character A really wanted to call the state police, he already would have. There would be no need for further discussion. But since character A has not yet called the state police, he must not actually want to.

One of the boldest uses of this technique is when somebody has a gun to your head. To play character B's role and attempt to convince character A that he doesn't want to kill you would take guts. But if the technique works, you should apply it everywhere. You must be willing to swallow that bullet!

Does anyone know if this is a certified negotiation technique, or is it merely a Hollywood concoction? Maybe Influence will let me know, I just ordered it from Amazon.