“How To Safely Use Divide-And-Conquer Strategies To Affect Negotiations” – Negotiation Insights

“Parts of the whole becomes weakened once the whole becomes divided.” -Greg Williams, The Master Negotiator & Body Language Expert (click to Tweet) 

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“How To Safely Use Divide-And-Conquer

Strategies To Affect Negotiations”

People don’t realize they’re always negotiating.

When you are in a negotiation team environment against a powerful opponent, use divide-and-conquer strategies to overcome their advantages. And you can do that by using the negotiation strategies strategically. Mastering the techniques that follow will allow you to gain an advantage in all of your future negotiations.   

Divide-And-Conquer Strategies

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” So said Abraham Lincoln, 16th president of the United States. Strategies to divide those allied for the same outcomes have existed since the dawn of time. And those strategies have endured since then because of their effectiveness.

During negotiations, using divide-and-conquer strategies can mean the difference between a losing negotiation and success. Here is what to consider to formulate your plans.

1. Identify the bonds that hold the opposition together.

By identifying those factors, you will know what is most important to them. That will also determine the target for your efforts to disrupt their alliance.

2. Seek to uncover hidden agendas.

Finding hidden agendas will allow you to target individual factions within a team, giving you ways to exploit a divide amongst them.

3. Determine with whom you would like to negotiate.

Even when a team leader is designated, if you believe someone else on the opposition is easier to deal with, insist that person be the lead. At a minimum, the original leader may harbor ill feelings about being pushed aside. And that may ferment a need within him to ensure his team does not have the outcome they could have achieved with him as the team head. Anytime there are competing interests amongst allies, the opportunity exists to exploit those interests.

The preceding insights are tactical considerations you should make to foster the divide-and-conquer strategies you will employ in your negotiation. But first, it would be helpful to gather the following information. Doing so will allow you to apply the process more tactically and strategically. And having that information will heighten your ability to create a more viable plan.

Negotiation Dynamics

In every negotiation, dynamics occur that cause it to shift. The deciding factor for that shift stems from the outcomes sought by the participants. Even with team members striving for a united conclusion, some individuals will possess additional needs that will motivate them to deviate from the desires of their teammates.

For example, one team member may perform in a manner to attract attention to himself. He may want his teammates to view him as the go-to person who got the other team to make the most beneficial concessions. Regardless of the reasoning, during the negotiation, it is the hidden dynamics that you must become attuned to before you can divide your opposition. And one way to do that is by controlling information and recognition.

Be Aware Of Stories

When you secretly seek information about a negotiator’s hidden agenda, he may divulge it in the stories he tells. It would be best if you also observed how a negotiator positions himself in his stories. Therein will lie the potential information for what he may have as his hidden agenda in the current negotiation.

In addition to observing stories, observe how someone delivers them and their gestures while doing so. The observance of their gestures will help you hone in on the underpinnings of their actions. In particular, note when someone becomes more or less animated. That will give you specific insight into the mindset (i.e., excited/docile) motivating their actions. That will also be critical information you will need to devise divide-and-conquer strategies.   

Controlling Information

The next aspect of gathering information to devise your divide-and-conquer strategy is controlling information. There is power in the disbursement of information. And when you do it correctly, you increase your degree of control in any situation.

To control information stealthily, parcel it out based on the criteria you create. If you sense you can divide the opposition by giving it to someone that lacks status, give it to them quietly. You will bolster that person’s ability to acquire information from your team while decreasing his teammates’ ability to do so.

Be careful of appearing that you are withholding information to advance your hidden agenda. I have observed others doing this over the years when negotiating. During such times, I allowed the opposition to think they were succeeding at their ploy. I did so to see where their deeds would take them. Once I had that insight, I flipped the script on the opposition by allowing our teammate to gather more information from them. They thought they had turned him to their advantage. In reality, he became akin to a double agent working for our team.

Controlling Recognition

The next aspect in your plan to create divide-and-conquer strategies is to control the recognition of anyone who seeks it for self-aggrandizement. Egos always exist in negotiations. Knowing when to feed it and when to hold back praise can be the controlling stimuli that will give you more power.

The purpose of controlling recognition allows you to observe how someone reacts to a lack of praise when they express the appearance of making noteworthy contributions. That can foster consternation in that person, leading to them obliging your request to get an attaboy from you.


During negotiations, challenges will confront you. One way to offset them is by employing divide-and-conquer strategies. By using the prior insights mentioned, you can use divide-and-conquer strategies more efficiently and effectively. That will boost your advantage in the negotiation. And everything will be right with the world.

Remember, you’re always negotiating!

Listen to Greg’s podcast at https://c-suitenetwork.com/radio/shows/greg-williams-the-master-negotiator-and-body-language-expert-podcast/

After reading this article, what are you thinking? I’d like to know. Reach me at Greg@TheMasterNegotiator.comTo receive Greg’s free “Negotiation Tip of the Week” and the “Negotiation Insight,” click here https://themasternegotiator.com/greg-williams/blog

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