“Muddy Waters – Advice On How To Actually Win Negotiations Faster” – Negotiation Tip of the Week

“When logic fails, muddy the waters.” -Greg Williams, The Master Negotiator & Body Language Expert (Click to Tweet)

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“Muddy Waters – Advice On How To

Actually Win Negotiations Faster”

People don’t realize they’re always negotiating.

Are you a damn imbecile? Do you actually want to win negotiations? The organization’s president, whose team was engaged in a negotiation that would determine the company’s fate, asked his lead negotiator those questions. The president was fuming! And rightfully so, a lot was riding on the outcome of the negotiation. And the lead negotiator had allowed his team to be demeaned, outmaneuvered, and bullied by the opposition.

When was the last time you were either demeaned, outmaneuvered, or bullied during negotiations? I ask because one of those three aspects has occurred to everyone when negotiating at some point in their life.

But after you use the following information in your negotiations, you will be armed with insights that will allow you to win more of your bargaining sessions.

Negotiation Beginnings

At the outstart of negotiations, the negotiators set the stage for the proceedings. Remember, the negotiation starts at the first interaction between the parties. And that occurs long before you sit across from one another at the negotiation table.

At the initial encounter, the bargainers determine how they will engage each other. And in some negotiations, one side may decide that it can gain more ground by being tough on its counterpart. And if you are the one that your opponent chooses to be obstinate with, you must be prepared to defend yourself and your negotiation position.

Muddy Waters

If you cannot win the argument, muddy the waters. Do that by making things murky. Such as:

Changing Negotiation Rules

When a negotiator is playing hardball, and you feel they have gone too far, stop playing by their rules – the rules set for the negotiation proceedings. One way to shake things up in a negotiation is to adhere no longer to agreed-upon standards. It signals to your opponent that you have changed. And unless they wish to continue on a path of doom, they need to change too.

Use Illogical Logic

Have you encountered a negotiator that was illogical? How did you feel, disoriented, like something was not right? How did that affect your negotiation style?

You can use illogical logic to defy the other negotiator’s assertions when he becomes belligerent, which means you can win negotiations by employing this ploy. For example, if he said 1 + 1 = 2, you might reply, 1 + 1 can = 3, if we agree on it. The implication is, all rules of logic are out the window unless the two of you can resolve specific points. 


Misdirection is another tactic that you can use to muddy the waters during a negotiation. It is also a tool to deflect someone’s assertions or anger during the discussion. Use it by shifting the topic of conversation from the point your opponent is highlighting and talk about points you discussed prior. The outcome you seek is to infuse the current issue of your talks to change the focus from what you and they were discussing. 

Disinformation vs. Misinformation

There’s a difference between disinformation and misinformation. With disinformation, you can use it maliciously to shape the perspective of the other negotiator. In contrast, misinformation can be misconstrued information. And disinformation can be represented as misinformation if you get caught attempting to employ it.

With that distinction in mind, you may offer disinformation as a rebuttal to information presented by your counterpart. The purpose would be to disqualify that negotiator’s assertions or to weaken them. That would be your way of muddying the waters.

Alter Your Demeanor

Who was that masked man? People alter their appearance, which changes the way others perceive them. When confronting a negotiator that belittles or takes advantage of you during negotiations, change your demeanor – that will alter his.

If you have been acting mildly to a point, become more aggressive. Your counterpart will wonder who is the new person with whom they are dealing.

To effect this ploy, correctly, be provocative. The more you can increase the other negotiator’s curiosity about dealing with you in his current manner, the more you will be muddying the waters. And the change in your demeanor will cause him to reflect on altering his tactics. 

Make Future Promises (Carrot and Stick)

To become a disruptor of a negotiator’s bad behavior, depending on his antics, make future goodwill promises about negotiating in good faith if he will become less belligerent. That can serve as your carrot. It also serves as the announcement signaling the coming change in your demeanor if he refuses to change.  

If he rebuffs your offer, create an image of the pending doom that lies ahead in the short foreseeable future. Focus your efforts on predicting the coming calamity that you will unleash. That will be the stick. You will be muddying the mental waters of his mind, which hopefully will cause him to alter his course of harassment.


During negotiations, tensions can become taut, tempers may rise, and your counterpart may attempt to disparage you throughout the talks. If that occurs, you have a comeback. You can muddy the waters.

By employing the prior mentioned tactics, you will be better prepared to adjust your negotiation style and stop someone from bullying and belittling you. That will allow you to possess a mindset of strength, not weakness, which will bolster your negotiation efforts, leading to increased negotiation outcomes. 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.com

To 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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