Always Value Optics When You Negotiate

When you negotiate, do you consider the ‘optics’ that you and your actions project? You should always consider them in any situation, especially when negotiating.

‘Optics’ are the way in which a situation could be viewed or perceived by those with whom you’re negotiating, based on your physical appearance and that by which you’re adorned. In essence, the reason you should be cognizant of the ‘optics’ you project is due to the message that ‘optics’ send. As an example, if you were negotiating and claimed not to have an abundance of financial resources, you should not arrive at a negotiation location in a convoy of vehicles; nor should you arrive in clothing adorned with the spectacles befitting someone of royalty.

Consider the ‘optics’ of the following situations and assess the messages they send.

Situation Number 1:

A man boards an airplane from one country, destined for Detroit Michigan in the US. This occurs in winter, and he has no coat (It gets very cold in Detroit in winter). That by itself may not draw attention. When coupled with other data, such as …

  • his father telling US officials that his son (the man in question) had been radicalized
  • the man in question buying a one-way ticket and paying for it with cash
  • the man having no luggage, etc ..


adds up to create a picture (‘optics’) of someone that might not have the best of intentions. In this case, the ‘optics’ were aligned with the ill intentions of this man’s intended actions. Those were the ‘optics’ presented by the person that attempted to ignite a bomb on the Delta flight destined for Detroit over the Christmas holiday.

The point is, when the ‘optics’ don’t match what is ‘normal’ in a situation, attention should be drawn to the possible visual inconsistencies of those ‘optics’.

Situation Number 2:

In the US, some of the largest financial institutions, that received bailout dollars from the US federal government, are in the process of giving huge bonuses to the top-level echelon of those in their organizations. Had the federal government not bailed out those institutions, they might have collapsed. In addition, earmarked monies were never filtered down that were to stimulate opportunities for other industries throughout the US from the corporations receiving bailout funds.

Think about these ‘optics’ …

  • large corporation giving out huge bonuses to high level corporate management
  • the government helping the corporations in question, out of a ‘jam’ that many say the corporations created
  • funds not being applied to assist other industries in need

No matter how you ‘view it’, the overall ‘optics’ appear to be, ‘out of focus’, on behalf of the government and the corporations!

You’ve heard that a picture is worth a thousand words. In order to improve your negotiation efforts, carefully construct the image (‘optics’) that you wish to project and nurture it throughout the negotiation. Also be mindful of how future actions stemming from the negotiation will be viewed. By doing so, you’ll convey consistency with your negotiation position, which will add to your believability, which in turn will enhance the believability of your position … and everything will be right with the world.

The Negotiation Tips Are …

  • Remember, even after a negotiation has concluded, you cast an image. Make sure those ‘optics’ are consistent with the overall image of the position you projected throughout the negotiation.
  • If you observe inconsistencies between ‘optics’ projected by the other negotiator, you’ll gain nonverbal insight and receive additional information from which you can use to negotiate.
  • Since image and the ‘optics’ you project play such a vital role in a negotiation, always be very mindful of how you construct your image and give thought to how that image will be received and perceived. Those that are astute to such imagery will discern nonverbal information from your appearance and that which surrounds you.
Scroll to Top