“Danger Is The Cost For Crossing A Negotiation Line“ – Negotiation Tip of the Week

“The danger in crossing a line is ending on the wrong side.” -Greg Williams, The Master Negotiator & Body Language Expert (Click to Tweet)

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“Danger Is The Cost For Crossing A Negotiation Line“

He stated, with a sense of exasperation, “you’re getting very close to the line! If I can’t walk away feeling like I got something out of this deal, both of us will walk away with that feeling.” With that statement, he’d tossed the gauntlet down and drew the line indicating how far the other negotiator had gone. Yes, it could have been his ploy to signal where his disdain laid per the offer made. But it was also his way of heightening the tension in the negotiation.

There’ll be times when you get caught in situations that lead to crises. Some will stem from the fostered efforts of others. That’ll be their attempt to entangle you in the trap of indecisiveness and uncertainty. If you’re fleet of mind, you’ll slip the snare and avoid a potential crisis. And here’s how to do that.    

Using And Applying Pressure

When an accident victim is badly bleeding, first responders use a tourniquet to apply pressure to the wound. That’s an effort to control blood loss. If you use too little or too much force, you risk further harming the victim. And the same is true in a negotiation. You must know when to and when not to apply pressure. There are three ways to do that if you sense someone’s getting close to crossing a line.

  1. Time – Most people know you can use time as a form of pressure. But if you wish to use it as a deterrent to indicate someone should not cross a line, you need to have incremental line points. As an example, let’s say you extended an offer with a time deadline. Instead of stating it expires at 11:37 a.m. on Thursday, you might structure your offering to have the best deal expire on the prior Monday. You could have incremental offers between Monday and Thursday too. And at each point, the deal would become worse. In this case, your efforts would become geared to inducing this individual to act sooner than later. Because the longer inaction occurs on his behalf, the higher the cost he’ll bear. And, if he waits until Thursday to accept your offer, he will have crossed several lines, which will be the penalty he incurred for doing so.  
  • Scarcity Factor – Another tried-and-true inducement is the scarcity factor – only two left, 14 people are watching this item, etc. You see it in some form of your everyday activities. Its purpose is to get someone to act quickly.  

Depending on your position at that point in the negotiation, you can state that you’ll wait for a better offer before doing anything. With that, you’ll be moving the line closer or pushing it off into the distance. Just be aware that there’ll be a cost for readjusting the line.

  • Boogyman/Phantom – Another buyer is waiting for this. So, you’d better get it while it’s still available. This maneuver encompasses both the time and the scarcity factor. And it can be an excellent ploy to use against a less sophisticated negotiator. Before him, you’ve placed the proverbial line. But a more astute negotiator may mark you as being the one that lacks sophistication if you attempt this with him. So, assess the negotiator’s astuteness before you employ this tactic.  


You must set the right tone in any interaction, less your actions set out for failure. Thus, before you set the line you’ll use to induce activity, you must consider the role and demeanor you’ll use to enhance that effort.

Being Too Soft (soft line) – Recall a time when you were making a purchase or selling something, and there was no pressure or rush to complete the transaction. How did you feel? If you were the seller, you might have experienced some form of angst if you wanted to complete the deal quickly. If you were the buyer and you sought to acquire the item fast, and could not do so expeditiously, you may have had the same sensation. The point is, sometimes taking a soft approach is not the right approach to use. With some people, the more time you give them to complete a transaction, the more time they’ll take, which may lead to them not adopting an action at all.

Pushing Too Hard (hardline) – Darn, he was pushy. That’s what someone might have said about you, or you might have said about someone you dealt with about and effort to excessively close a deal. While the soft line approach can be less daunting for some to deal with, being a hardliner can cause someone to run from you. Always know the difference between when to use one approach versus another. And that will dictate which demeanor and line you should adopt.   

Tip – Always attempt to leave the other negotiator feeling like a winner. And, if he thinks that he slightly got an advantage due to his smarts, he’ll receive greater pleasure from the outcome. The demeanor you cast during your engagement will determine the degree he feels he’s won something, or if you gave it to him. People have a tendency not to appreciate what someone has given them as much as what they’ve achieved on their own merits. Remember that!


Every day, we’re confronted by a line that serves as a boundary between what we want, what others will allow us to have, and what we’ll offer them. Once you become better at drawing a line and knowing how to maneuver someone’s perspective about the value of it, you’ll become better at achieving more significant outcomes from those with whom you engage. And everything will be right with the world. 

Remember, you’re always negotiating!

Listen to Greg’s podcast at https://anchor.fm/themasternegotiator

After reading this article, what are you thinking? I’d like to know. Reach me at Greg@TheMasterNegotiator.com

To receive Greg’s free “Negotiation Tip of the Week” and the “Sunday Negotiation Insight” click here https://www.themasternegotiator.com/greg-williams/

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