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The Scariest Things I’ve Seen

Brian Buck
Scariest Things I've Seen
© Scotwork NA

With Halloween right around the corner, I got to thinking about the scariest things that I’ve seen as a negotiator. The truly scary part about this process was the realization that these instances of fright lurk just below the surface of any negotiation!

At this time of year, we typically begin to hear Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” played with some regularity. While we all know that the famous single is about the monsters that come out at night, most people don’t realize that it started life as a song about negotiating and perils of dealmaking . . . 


It’s your deal fight

The other side is lurking in the dark

Under the spotlight

A proposal that almost stops your heart 


It’s at your extreme

Fear takes over and wants you to take it

You start to freeze

The other side hits right between the eyes

You’re paralyzed


’Cause it’s a killer, killer deal

And no one’s gonna counter the deal you’re about to strike

You know a killer, killer deal

You're fighting for your right to have a killer deal tonight, yeah


OK . . . that’s not true. (Sorry, Mr. Temperton, for destroying your song.) Nevertheless, there are some scary things that could legitimately frighten you at the negotiating table. Here are some of the most hair-raising examples that we’ve witnessed . . .

  • They discover the one thing that you didn’t want them to know about. We all have hidden information that we never want to be revealed. It could be something like how badly you want the deal or how much you’d really be willing to pay for the deal. It can be scary when that one thing that could hurt you gets out.
  • The other side realizes that they have more power than you do. The power that they have, the more they can force you to move from your preferred position, creates a helpless feeling that can lead to a lot of value erosion and plain old bad decisions.
  • They ask you that question you don’t want to answer. There’s nothing more uncomfortable than when the other side is looking for answers to hard questions. As the pressure mounts, it can feel as if you’re being chased by Frankenstein’s monster or the Mummy.
  • The other side walks away from the table. It’s one thing if you’re walking away from the table, but when the other side walks away you can feel betrayed and hurt. That’s when fear sets in, as you think about what you’re going to do next and begin to contemplate the idea of starting over.
  • You discover that you gave too much and didn’t get enough in return. There’s nothing like deal remorse to kill the mood of a good negotiation. When you realize that you didn’t get enough or you gave too much, it will haunt you until the next deal.

All of the above can happen in any deal. So, what can help ward off the evil spirits of a negotiation . . . besides garlic, a cross, and holy water, of course? How about good practice, proper preparation, and some well-honed dealmaking skills. 


Let Us Help You Mitigate Your Fears at the Negotiating Table

The negotiating table can be a scary place. Getting your fears in check requires the right balance of good practice, proper preparation, and some well-honed dealmaking skills. We can help! Drawing on 45 years of real-world negotiating experience, we’ll assist you with getting better deals, saving time, and creating value for all involved — not to mention preserving and even strengthening relationships. Let us partner you with one of our advisers, ensuring that you’ve got the broadest view of your deal.

Talk to one of our experts today.

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