If you have to have a deal, then all the other side needs to do to win the negotiation is to outwait you.
Take international relations. It used to be assumed that being bamboozled in treaty negotiations was part of the price of a free society. The reason the democracies have been such failures in international negotiations with tyrannies is that the attitudes of the general public are part of the baggage our representatives bring to the bargaining table–and the general public has an expectation that “success” in bargaining is measured by the act of reaching an agreement, never mind what the agreement is.
As a result, once our foreign-policymakers are maneuvered into going into negotiations, it’s almost inevitable that we lose, because the other side knows that they have only to refuse to make a deal–unless it;s one they regard as favorable to them–and the public perception will be that our negotiators will have lost a key opportunity.
Vyacheslav Molotov, the longtime foreign minister of the Societ Union, was so adept at this outwaiting technique that his nickname was “Ironpants.”
Deals seldom get worse when you walk away from the table. Be prepared to walk away from the table … and mean it. You’ll be able to go back to the table and get even better terms.
The single most powerful tool for winning a negotiation is the ability to walk away from the table without a deal.
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