Brinksmanship

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Identification

Brinksmanship involves holding out until the absolute deadline is upon you. This is not for the faint of heart, and its goal is to extract more concessions as the deadline looms. When used imperfectly, brinksmanship may yield an inferior or non-resultant outcome[2]. It may be an indication of internal disorganization of one or more parties, or of ineffective leadership.

Example

Consider this example, in the sales context: Negotiator 1: “I am at end of quarter and I want to book your business, prices go up tomorrow.” Negotiator 2: “I can wait.” Consider this second example, typical with arguing divorcees: Negotiator 1: “If you do not pay your half, little Benny will miss summer camp.” Negotiation 2: “But that is not during my visitation, so it should be on your nickel.”

Solution

One approach is to negotiate with an influential third party – an intermediary – and submit the deal to the second party at the last minute. Secondarily, when negotiating in a multiparty situation or in a robust market where the other party may form coalitions, seek accord with splinter groups and form your own coalition. The adverse party may have reached out to a wider network than the one at the table, and you must do the same. Finally, if you have the spine and intestinal fortitude, hold out until the absolute deadline. It’s risky, but if this is a serial negotiation – one where you will have to negotiate many times in the future, like with a long-term supplier or former spouse – then giving in once means you will be played each and every time in future.

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