Drive a hard bargain Definition & Meaning

What type are you?

A few years ago I was on my boat with one of my employees, a great guy named Keenan; I was supposed to be giving him a pep talk and performance review. “When I think of what we do, I describe it as ‘uncovering the riptide,’” I said. “Uncovering the riptide,” Keenen said. “Yes, the idea is that we—you and I and everyone here—have the skills to identify the psychological forces that are pulling us away from shore and use them to get somewhere more productive.” “Somewhere more productive,” Keenen said. “Exactly,” I said. “To a place where we can . . .” We had talked for about forty-five minutes when my son Brandon, who runs operations for The Black Swan Group, broke out laughing.


Analysts are methodical and diligent. They are not in a big rush. Instead, they believe that as long as they are working toward the best result in a thorough and systematic way, time is of little consequence. Their self-image is linked to minimizing mistakes. Their motto: As much time as it takes to get it right.

Classic analysts prefer to work on their own and rarely deviate from their goals. They rarely show emotion, and they often use what is very close to the FM DJ Voice I talked about in Chapter 3, slow and measured with a downward inflection. However, Analysts often speak in a way that is distant and cold instead of soothing. This puts people off without them knowing it and actually limits them from putting their counterpart at ease and opening them up.


The most important thing to this type of negotiator is the time spent building the relationship. Accommodators think as long as there is a free-flowing continuous exchange of information time is being well spent. As long as they’re communicating, they’re happy. Their goal is to be on great terms with their counterpart. They love the win-win.

Taking a punch

Negotiation academics like to treat bargaining as a rational process devoid of emotion. They talk about the ZOPA—or Zone of Possible Agreement—which is where the seller’s and buyer’s zones cross. Say Tony wants to sell his car and won’t take less than $5,000 and Samantha wants to buy but won’t pay more than $6,000. The ZOPA runs from $5,000 to $6,000. Some deals have ZOPAs and some don’t. It’s all very rational.

Punching back: using assertion without getting used by it

When a negotiation is far from resolution and going nowhere fast, you need to shake things up and get your counterpart out of their rigid mindset. In times like this, strong moves can be enormously effective tools. Sometimes a situation simply calls for you to be the aggressor and punch the other side in the face. That said, if you are basically a nice person, it will be a real stretch to hit the other guy like Mike Tyson. You can’t be what you’re not. As the Danish folk saying goes, “You bake with the flour you have.” But anyone can learn a few tools.

Real anger, threats without anger, and strategic umbrage

Marwan Sinecure of INSEAD and Stanford University’s Larissa Tie dens found that expressions of anger increase a negotiator’s advantage and final take. 2 Anger shows passion and conviction that can help sway the other side to accept less. However, by heightening your counterpart’s sensitivity to danger and fear, your anger reduces the resources they have for other cognitive activity, setting them up to make bad concessions that will likely lead to implementation problems, thus reducing your gains.

No neediness: having the ready-to-walk mindset

We’ve said previously that no deal is better than a bad deal. If you feel you can’t say “No” then you’ve taken yourself hostage. Once you’re clear on what your bottom line is, you have to be willing to walk away. Never be needy for a deal.

Lastly Comment

When push comes to shove—and it will—you’re going to find yourself sitting across the table from a bare-knuckle negotiator. After you’ve finished all the psychologically nuanced stuff—the labeling and mirroring and calibrating—you are going to have to hash out the “brass tacks.” For most of us, that ain’t fun. Top negotiators know, however, that conflict is often the path to great deals. And the best find ways to actually have fun engaging in it. Conflict brings out truth, creativity, and resolution.

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