I was talking last week about how you’ve got to have a ‘credible threat’ in negotiations, otherwise you’re dead in the water.
If you’re in negotiation with someone, and you can’t create any realistic down-side, then you’re not really in negotiation. You’re in a position of asking… pretty please with a cherry on top.
You’re not in a position of power.
And so sometimes this means you’ve got to be a little tough – or at least play a bit tough.
But a threat alone isn’t enough. It has to be credible.
For example: “If you don’t come around and fix this bodgy plumbing job you did in my new bathroom, I’m going to open a portal from hell and set the hordes of darkness upon you.”
Threat: yes. Credible: No.
And so a lot of people balk at making threats because they don’t feel they can deliver one that is credible.
If you’re a total softy nice-guy, always bending over barrels to help people out, it’s difficult to turn around and deliver a threat that’s credible.
But there is always something available to you.
It reminds me of a story I love about a guy who was set upon by a bunch of thugs. It was late, there was no one around. There was 5 of them, just one of him. It was a hairy situation.
And this guy wasn’t Bruce Lee or Jean Claude Van Damn. A threat to open a can of whoop-ass was never going to be credible.
But he came up with a credible threat.
He picked out the guy who seemed to be the ring-leader – the top dog. Then he looked him square in the eye.
“There’s a lot of you and I’m not much of a fighter. I’m probably going to get hurt. I might even die. I’m ok with that. But I promise you this. If we fight, I swear I will tear your ear right off your head.”
Suddenly he had a threat that was credible. If you were in a brawl, and you didn’t care whether you lived or died, and you set yourself single-mindedly to nothing but tearing someone’s ear off, there’s a decent chance you would.
And suddenly, this gang had a downside. They would still win the fight. They always would. But now there was a reasonable chance that their top dog was going to lose an ear.
There aren’t many things in life worth sacrificing an ear for. Dutch post-impressionist painting maybe, but not much else.
And so the negotiation was flipped on its head. It was no longer this guy pleading for his life, relying on the humanity of the gang. Pretty please with a cherry on top.
Rather it was a threat to get beaten up vs. a threat to lose an ear.
The gang walked away.
But do you see what I mean? There is always a credible threat you can make.
Credibility in turn relies on your strength and weaknesses. It needs to be consistent with who you are as a person, and what you are and are not willing to do.
And you need to be willing to follow through. This guy really would have gone after that ear. The gang felt that.
But yeah, if you feel you’re lacking power in a negotiation, come back and look for your credible threat.
And go hard.