Improve Your Negotiations With The 5 Golden Rules.   LEARN THEM

Years ago in law school, I was taught to pay particularly close attention to any inconsistencies I noticed in litigation from our opponents – whether in depositions, motions or at trial. I was told to analyze their words, strategic moves, and tone and body language.

Exploiting inconsistencies, I was informed, will decrease your opponent’s credibility and increase your ability to win your case.

In negotiations, where bluffing, puffery and sometimes even lying occurs, finding inconsistencies can also be extremely powerful.

In last week’s column, I detailed three ways to evaluate what’s really critical to your counterpart: 1) Independently research their issues and interests, 2) Ask and confirm, and 3) Investigate their credibility through strategic intelligence-gathering.

Here are three more, each related to whether and to what extent your counterpart is communicating consistent or inconsistent messages about their priorities.

1. Evaluate the differentiation between their issues

Sophisticated negotiators know it’s not credible to say that all your issues are “critical.” In fact, it’s a red flag. Some issues are invariably more or less important than others.

Your challenge is to ascertain how your counterpart differentiates between their issues.

Longtime Wall Street lawyer James Freund says in Smart Negotiating, “You gain credence for your inflexibility on a few choice issues [signaling an issue is extremely important to you] by your willingness to give ground on the rest [signaling the rest are less important].”

So pay attention to their language and moves and how they differentiate between their issues.

2. Their offer-concession moves mean more than their rhetoric

 In negotiations, what they do is more impactful than what they say. It’s relatively easy to engage in puffery and “exaggerate” by indicating an issue is more critical than it really is – they just say it. But the rubber hits the proverbial road when they put that issue into an offer or counteroffer.

Why? Because if you accept their offer – they can’t easily take it back.

Let’s say your counterpart tells you the term or length of the deal is extremely significant. But in their counter, they hold firm on other issues but fairly quickly cave on the term. Their quick caving on the term communicates that it’s not that critical, despite what they said earlier.

Also carefully note when, how often, and how far they move on their issues. Many negotiators taper their moves and hold off on significant concessions until near the end. Perhaps even track them on a spreadsheet to systematically evaluate your counterpart’s priorities.

3. Evaluate their tone and body language

Deeply listen and focus intently on their tone, body language, and how they talk about their interests, especially the strength and feeling in their language and rhetoric. Easier said than done, I know. But it’s crucial.

Latz’s Lesson: Pay attention to how your counterparts differentiate between their issues, the changes in their moves and countermoves, and how strongly they talk about all this.

 * Marty Latz is the founder of Latz Negotiation, a national negotiation training and consulting company that helps individuals and organizations achieve better results with best practices based on the experts’ research. He can be reached at 480.951.3222 or

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