A simple negotiating trick


Way back in the ancient days when houses were being sold in my city without getting ten offers over the asking price and negotiation was something you actually had to think about, I made an offer on a house. But before I offered, I employed a simple negotiation trick.

It goes like this.

  1. Find out what’s important to the other person
  2. Be pretty unreasonable about it in your first offer
  3. Eventually, trade it to them for whatever is actually important to you

This only works if there’s something important to them that you don’t care about, but when that happens this technique works very well. In this case, I found out that the seller wanted the sale to close quickly.

I didn’t especially care when the sale closed, but I did care about money. I was willing to buy it sooner if that meant it would be cheaper. So in my first offer to them, I offered a low amount of money and a long closing time. As we progressed in the negotiation, I was able to flex on the closing time and leave the amount of the offer where it was.

By creating this (let’s admit it) artificial give-and-take, it emphasized that I was negotiating, being reasonable and making sure they got something they wanted, while still maximizing the thing which was most important to me. That impression wouldn’t have existed if I’d just offered it to them out of the gate, and I’d be less likely to get what I wanted.

Is this ethical? I think so. What’s ethical about putting yourself in a position where you’re less likely to get what’s important to you?