“Confusion How To Use It To Win More And Increase Negotiation Skills” – Negotiation Tip of the Week

“Confusion clarified adds value to all parties of a negotiation.” -Greg Williams, The Master Negotiator & Body Language Expert (Click to Tweet)

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“Confusion – How To Use It To Win More

And Increase Negotiation Skills”

People don’t realize they’re always negotiating.

Warning! The following information about negotiators using confusion as a tactic in negotiation can be beneficial. It can also be detrimental if you are on the receiving end of it. So, you should continue. Even if you do not use confusion to advantage your negotiation position, you will discover how to protect yourself from its use against you.

What do magic tricks, misdirection, and projecting an unexpected persona have in common in negotiation? They all have the effect of creating confusion. And sometimes, savvy negotiators use confusion to create an advantage during negotiation. 

So, how might you advantage your negotiation position by utilizing confusion as a tactic?

Continue, and you will discover the answer to that question. You will also uncover how negotiators employ confusion as a tactic against you and what you can do to combat their efforts. Thus, having this insight will enable you to negotiate more effectively and increase your negotiation skills while also increasing your negotiation outcomes.  

Why Create Confusion

What I am about to tell you is a true story. And none of it really happened. Say what? What just occurred in your mind related to me stating that I was going to tell you a true story, and none of it really happened? Were you confused? If so, what thoughts did you engage to clarify your confusion?

Whatever your thoughts were, you had to stop your current line of thought process and place your attention on what I said. And that is an example of how and why negotiators use confusion during negotiation. They do so to divert your current thought process to create and insert a fog into the talks.

Confusion in Persona Projection

A prominent CEO of an organization told his subordinates to inform people he was meeting with that he did not like to shake hands. Those reporting to him did as instructed, but the first thing the CEO did was shake hands with people meeting with him. Those individuals were astounded. They were confused but felt special – because the CEO shook their hand. That is an example of how the CEO used confusion to enhance his persona.

A negotiator can use similar tactics to enhance their personality before negotiating. They can create and project a particular demeanor used to position the perception of the type of person they might be during negotiations, only to alter it during the proceedings. The effect would be to surprise the opposition by not knowing precisely the negotiator type with whom they were dealing. While the opposition is assessing the negotiator type with whom they are negotiating, the perpetrator can make advances by using confusion as their tactic.

Now that you have been given an example, before your next negotiation, think of ways you can use confusion to increase your negotiation skills. 

Body Language Signs of Confusion

People emit body language signs indicating they are confused. Such gestures can validate their state, which can signal to a negotiator the best time to continue employing their strategy (e.g., use confusion to divert attention from what is currently being discussed, alter the tone and direction of the negotiation, etc.)

Such signals as a negotiator scratching/rubbing their forehead, cocking their head to one side, appearing like a deer caught in headlights, or stating that they are confused are signs to observe. Once you note such expressions, you may seek clarification of that negotiator’s state by asking, do you understand? They will say no if they are genuinely transfixed, which allows you to confuse the target more. And it bears repeating that if you do not want or like to use confusion in your negotiation, knowing the signs that indicate its use against you is beneficial.  

How To Combat Confusion

You may think it goes without saying that when you are confused during negotiation, stop. Do not progress in the talks past the point of your confusion. Harm may await you if you do.

And while being mindful may sound like a feat easily accomplished, during the heat of a negotiation, a negotiator may act and not think about the consequences of their actions. To assure you do not fall prey to this tactic:

1. Do not be afraid to ask for clarity. Some opposing negotiators may appear irritated when you do. Most likely, they are using their antics as a ploy. Do not let their actions deter you from seeking clarity by being complacent.

2. When experiencing confusion, ask to have a point summarized. There’s a slight perceptional difference between asking for a summary and clarity. Since some negotiators may employ the confusion tactic when losing, how you respond will impact their perspective of your position.

To combat confusion, you must be alert to its usage – never let it fester. Always be mindful of when the opposition uses it and keep your guard high to defeat it.


Confusion is a viable tool that negotiators use to increase their negotiation skills. And yet, some negotiators do not use it to improve their negotiation outcomes or stumble because they are unprepared to do so. And while it can be a helpful skill to enhance your negotiation, it can also be what sinks them.

Therefore, always be mindful of your intent when using confusion in your negotiation and the potential harm it may cause. From there, if using it is assessed to be beneficial, do so. If your assessment is contrary, do not initially give up on its usage. Instead, consider how you might use it to benefit the negotiation outcome. That means considering how the opposition may profit but not to the degree it disadvantages you.  

Confusion occurs at some point in every negotiation. The question becomes, can it be a tactical strategy you employ to increase your negotiation skills? If done so adeptly, the answer is yes. And everything will be right with the world.

Remember, you’re always negotiating! 

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