“This Is How To Use A Poison Pill In A Negotiation” Negotiation Insight

“A poison pill can add life to a negotiation. Make sure the value-added is yours.” -Greg Williams, The Master Negotiator & Body Language Expert (click to Tweet)

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“This Is How To Use A Poison Pill In A Negotiation”

People don’t realize they’re always negotiating.

When a negotiator expects an occurrence in a negotiation that doesn’t happen, it’s akin to missing something expected. And that’s where the value of a poison pill can enhance one’s negotiation efforts. By inference, a poison pill can cast the image of death. But that doesn’t have to be the case. So, precisely what is a poison pill in a negotiation. And how might a negotiator use it to enhance his negotiation position?

In a negotiation, a poison pill can deter the opposing negotiator from pursuing a strategy that’s not beneficial to the negotiator employing this strategy. It can also be used as a wedge to create separation amongst the opposing ranks and serve as an attraction of allies for a negotiator’s cause.   

The following are six aspects in which someone can use a poison pill to impact a negotiation.

1. Deterrent Usage

Negotiator number one can use a poison pill in a negotiation to make an offer less attractive. An example of this would occur by the first negotiator asking for a concession that he knew the opposing negotiator would never grant. In so doing, he’d make the offer the negotiators were discussing less attractive. To amp up the pressure to deter negotiator number 2 from further pursuing what he was seeking, negotiator number one might state that he’d allow the other negotiator’s competition to acquire whatever they were negotiating.

2. Multipurpose Usage

A poison pill can also make an offer appear more attractive. Depending on the perspective from which one views its usage, a negotiator can craft the poison pill’s positioning to become considered to be an advantage or disadvantage. Thus, in one real sense, a negotiator can use it to enhance an offer, and when that positioning doesn’t suit his needs, he can turn it around to serve as a deterrent. This strategy is like having a tool that a negotiator can use as a sword for offense and a shield for defense.

3. Leverage Usage

A negotiator can use a poison pill as leverage to deter an initially disinterested party from entering the negotiation. He can also use it to ferret out would-be allies of the opposing negotiator. To avert a potentially interested party, the wielding negotiator could make the cost of entry into the negotiation too costly. The negotiator might accomplish that by alarming those that would feel threatened by the third party engaging in the proceedings.

To ferret out potential, or existing allies, of the opposing negotiator, a similar ploy might be engaged as that of preventing others from joining the negotiation on the side of the opposition. In this case, the difference would be leveraging the opposing negotiator’s allies’ alliance against the penalties of doing so. In essence, the negotiator using the poison pill for leverage would discover an aspect of desire his target wished to acquire. Then, he’d find a way to withhold it from them as long as they maintained an alliance with the opposition.

4. Bitter Pill To Swallow Usage

If I can’t have it, you won’t have it either. In this scenario, a negotiator can employ a poison pill as a deterrent to ward off unwanted offers. Like its usage as leverage, in this case, a negotiator can use the tactical strategy as a threat that states that I’ll destroy what you want if you ignore my requests. That statement can be the most perplexing usage of the poison pill strategy. Because, if logical reasoning is applied, depending on what you’re negotiating, the other negotiator may think that you won’t back out of the deal for the reasons stated.

Thus, he may challenge you to employ the use of the pill, which would serve as a test of your commitment to what you’ve said you’ll do. Then, if you don’t employ the pill’s usage, you’ve displayed your weakness. That’ll leave you vulnerable to exploitation. And more than likely, the other negotiator will rip at the opportunity to exploit you. He’ll do so until he’s exposed all of its benefits. Suffice it to say, be extremely cautious when using the pill in this manner. It’s a tactic that can easily backfire against you.    

5. Delay of Time Usage

A poison pill strategy can give a negotiator more time to improve his negotiation position. A negotiator can increase this tactic’s effectiveness by coupling the deterrent of utilizing the pill’s effect within a specified time if the unwanted offer presented is not withdrawn. Meanwhile, while that segment of the negotiation occurs, the negotiator can seek alliances to improve his position.

6. Divide Opposition/Attract Allies Usage

You can use a poison pill to divide those on the opposition. Within a negotiation team, members will have their specific interests. Thus, while the opposing team may be committed to a common purpose, if a negotiator using the poison pill strategy appeals to an opposition negotiator’s specific interest, he may separate that individual’s commitment from that team. And that act could make that negotiator and ally of the negotiator using the poison pill strategy.  


Poison pills have been used in business to ward off unwanted approaches since the beginning of time. They were not known as poison pills initially. But, their usage and perfection have grown by people engaging in negotiations.

If you utilize the poison pill strategies mentioned, you’ll increase your negotiation efforts. You’ll also prevent negative occurrences from happening, too. 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

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