How to Prevent the other Party in Negotiating from Lying

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How to Prevent the other Party in Negotiating from Lying
Chloe Xu, Premium Member
Nearly half of people will lie in a negotiation when having a motivation and the opportunity to do so, according to studies. But it is obvious that cheating can cause reaction in negotiation and may prevent creative problem solving that leads to win-win outcomes. It thus is one of the intangibles that negotiators should prepare for and take steps to prevent. People however are terrible at accurately identifying whether someone is telling a lie or not, according to a meta-analysis.

Leslie John, an Associate Professor of Harvard Business School, believes that prevention works better than detection to ensure people are not cheated in a negotiation. Here are some science-backed strategies that can make it difficult for the other party to lie in a conversation:
  • ENCOURAGE RECIPROCITY. People prefer reciprocating disclosure, particularly in face-to-face interactions. Developing a close relationship by reciprocity enables people to be more frank to their counterpart. Being the first to share some information of strategic importance is a good start, and it is very likely the other party will disclose an issue in the same category later on. This strategy also allows the opportunity for you to design the negotiation, which enhances your chances of finding out breakthroughs.
  • ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS. It is important to get the whole story. But many people are reluctant about disclosing sensitive information that could undermine their competitive position in negotiation. In this scenario, you can test your counterpart by asking direct questions that make pessimistic assumptions since it is harder for people to affirm an untrue statement.
  • WATCH FOR DODGING. Listeners usually can’t notice dodging in conversation, mainly because they have already forgotten what they asked. Therefore it is suggested to come to the negotiation table with a list of questions, and write down the other party’s answers one by one. And only when the answer to that question is “yes”, you can move on to the next one.
  • DON’T DELIBERATELY EMPHASIZE CONFIDENTIALITY. An early survey indicated that the greater of the promises of confidentiality, the less willing people were to tell the truth. To make people more likely to disclose sensitive information, raise questions in a more casual tone. Of course, any confidential information should still be properly protected, but there is no need to announce that unless asked.
  • CULTIVATE LEAKS. People mindlessly leak accurate information in all kinds of ways, including in their own conversations. So simply listening to everything the other party says, even seemingly irrelevant or throwaway comments, may allow you to gather valuable information. Even the other party is determined to hold back closure, you can still encourage leakage by using indirect strategies, such as offering your counterpart two different options. If he/she shows a preference for one over the other, you can glean some information on his/her priorities and relative valuation.
  • USE CONTINGENCY CLAUSES. The last strategy is requesting contingency clauses that have financial consequences to your counterpart’s claims. If the other party is reluctant at agreeing to them, he/she might withhold some information in the negotiation. At a minimum, such reaction is suspicious and you should investigate further.
Lying surrounds us but is a roadblock for the creation of shared value in negotiation. Using the above science-backed tactics can clear this negotiation roadblock.

Source: John, L. (2016). How to Negotiate with a Liar. Harvard Business Review, 94(7/8), pp.114 - 117.


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