Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Good Guy/Bad Guy Counter Gambits

Power Negotiators use several counter gambits to Good Guy/Bad Guy. People use Good Guy/Bad Guy on you much more than you might believe. Look out for it whenever you're negotiating with two or more people and use these effective tactics:
  • The first counter gambit is simply to identify the gambit. Although there are many other ways to handle the problem, this one is so effective that it's probably the only one you need to know. Good Guy/Bad Guy is so well known that it embarrasses people when they get caught using it. When you notice the other person using, it you should smile and say, "Oh, come on, you aren't going to play Good Guy/Bad Guy with me, are you? Come on, sit down, let's work this thing out." Usually their embarrassment will cause them to retreat from the position.

  • You could respond by creating a Bad Guy of your own. Tell them that you'd love to do what they want, but you have people back in the head office who are obsessed with sticking to the program. You can always make a fictitious Bad Guy appear more unyielding than a Bad Guy who is present at the negotiation.

  • You could go over their heads to their supervisor. For example, if you're dealing with a buyer and head buyer at a distributorship, you might call the owner of the distributorship and say, "Your people were playing Good Guy/Bad Guy with me. You don't approve of that kind of thing, do you?" (Always be cautious about going over someone's head. The strategy can easily backfire it can cause.)

  • Sometimes just letting the Bad Guy talk resolves the problem, especially if he's being obnoxious. Eventually his own people will get tired of hearing it and will tell him to knock it off.

  • You can counter Good Guy/Bad Guy by saying to the Good Guy, "Look, I understand what you two are doing to me. From now on, anything that he says I'm going to attribute to you also." Now you have two Bad Guys to deal with, so it diffuses the gambit. Sometimes just identifying them both in your own mind as Bad Guys will handle it without your having to come out and accuse them.

  • If the other side shows up with an attorney or controller who is clearly there to play Bad Guy, jump right in and forestall their role. Say to them, "I'm sure you're here to play Bad Guy, but let's not take that approach. I'm as eager to find a solution to this situation as you are, so why don't we all take a win-win approach. Fair enough?" This really takes the wind out of their sails.