How To Avoid Deception In Your Next Negotiation

Be sincere and build trust in order to avoid deception
Be sincere and build trust in order to avoid deception
Image Credit: Mike Gifford

When we are involved in a negotiation, one of the key issues that we have to deal with is trying to determine if the other side is not being completely honest with us. Our goal is to find ways to prevent them from using their negotiation styles and negotiating techniques to be deceptive. The other side may not realize that they are being deceptive, they may believe that they are being ethical. We need to understand how we can work with the other side in order to avoid allowing deception to enter into our negotiation.

Exactly What Is Unethical Behavior?

All too often in our negotiations, ethical dilemmas often are more obvious to passive observers than to the people involved in the negotiation themselves. Researchers have described a process that they call ethical fading, in which “the ethical colors of a moral decision fade into bleached hues…void of moral implications.” Self-deceit lies at the heart of ethical fading; we hide moral aspects of a decision from ourselves to maintain our perception that we are moral people.

Even if you realize you’re facing an ethical dilemma, you might not make an ethical choice. Individuals tend to selectively turn their moral-self-sanctions on and off, thereby allowing themselves to behave immorally. Negotiators can justify unethical behavior by displacing or diffusing responsibility (“It’s their fault, too”), minimizing the consequences (“It’s not a big deal”), and even blaming the victim (“She was asking for it”).

How To Battle the Forces Behind Deception in Negotiation

To ensure that you negotiate effectively, you’ll have to identify ethical dilemmas, view unethical behavior clearly, and find ways to battle the forces that are set against you. In order to accomplish this, here are four guidelines will help you meet these goals:

Set a Personal Standard. Before entering a negotiation, set a personal ethical standard for your behavior. How ethical do you want to be? Determining in advance which behaviors are off-limits should help you recognize ethical dilemmas when they arise and make decisions that meet your standard. Moreover, make a plan to address specific ethical dilemmas that you may encounter.

Question Your Perceptions. The more tempted negotiators are to lie the more likely they are to believe their opponents will lie to them. Recognize that your perceptions of your counterpart’s ethics may be inaccurate, driven by your own desire to behave unethically.

Enhance Your Power. If powerlessness motivates deception in negotiation, it make sense that you should work hard to increase your negotiating power. Exploring your outside alternatives is an obvious first step. Researchers have identified several other sources of power: your skills, your knowledge, a strong relationship with your counterpart, and even the generation of an elegant solution.

Personalize The Other Side. When negotiating with a group, strive to view each member as an individual. Research has revealed that negotiators were more likely to lie to groups than to individuals, but simply providing the names of group members diminished that tendency. Getting to know opposing group members will help you adhere to your own ethical standards.


What All Of This Means For You

When we engage in a principled negotiation, we want the other side to be honest with us. Additionally, we want to be honest with the other side. It is going to be up to us to create a negotiating environment in which deception won’t play a role. How to make this happen is a challenge for every negotiator.

In order to prevent unethical behavior, we have to make sure that we first understand what it is. If we aren’t careful, “ethical fading” can occur and we may not be able to see that deception is occurring. In order to prevent deception from happening in your next negotiation, you need to take steps to prevent it. You need to set a personal ethical standard for your behavior. Understand that your perceptions of your counterpart’s ethics may be mistaken, Find ways to boost your power. Finally, it’s harder to lie to people that we know so take the time to personalize the other side.

Negotiators need to understand that how they behave in a negotiation may set a tone for the negotiation. If we understand that we are in charge of our own ethical behavior then we can take steps to make sure that we behave in an ethical fashion. By doing this, we will encourage the other side to eliminate any deception from the negotiations and in the end, we’ll be able to reach a better deal that both sides will be able to live with.


– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Negotiating Skills™


Question For You: What should you do during a negotiation if you feel that the other side is being dishonest?


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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

When we enter into a negotiation, more often than not we have a goal in mind – there is something that we want to get out of the negotiation. That goal often has to do with a price. Perhaps it’s how much we want to sell something for or perhaps it’s how much we want to pay for something. No matter which type of price we are dealing with, we’d like to use our negotiation styles and negotiating techniques to be in control of the discussion surrounding it. It turns out that there is a way to make this happen: price anchoring.

How To Avoid Deception In Your Next Negotiation