“Ambiguity in a negotiation is good and bad. Use it strategically and you can win more negotiations.” – Greg Williams, The Master Negotiator & Body Language Expert
To win more negotiations you must be flexible. You need to employ different strategies throughout the negotiation. Ambiguity is a strategy you can use to win more negotiations but most negotiators are unsure how to employ it and when.
This article outlines when you might consider evoking ambiguity as a strategy, and a few ways to use it as a backdoor to escape a negotiation that’s not serving you. It will also give you insights into how you can use ambiguity as a strategy to gain a greater perspective into the strategy(s) the opposing negotiator might use.
When You Might Evoke Ambiguity:
It’s generally thought, the more concise you are in a negotiation the better the negotiation will flow. That’s true to a point. The parting of that truth occurs when it behooves you to be somewhat unclear about what’s being discussed and/or to distract the other negotiator from his point. Ambiguity might be used at that point to see where he resumes after the distraction and/or if he comes back to the point at all. If he doesn’t return to the point, you will have gained insight as to the importance of it. If he does return, you might note any difference in his fervor for it. That too will give you insight into the point’s importance.
Using Ambiguity To Escape The Negotiation:
When you find yourself in an untenable negotiation position and you seek to bolt from it, use ambiguity as your launch pad. You can do so by stating that you lacked the understanding about what you were negotiating. Then, very apologetically, position yourself to depart from the negotiation. Be mentally prepared for possible verbal abuse. If such occurs, be obsequious by portraying a demeanor of one that lacks the knowledge of understanding. The point is, you know you’re using ambiguity at that point to escape the negotiation. If the other negotiator wishes to belittle your intellect, so be it, let him. You will have accomplished your goal and that’s what really matters. Be thoughtful of how you will position yourself if you re-engage in the negotiation. This ploy can’t be used throughout an extended negotiation less it loses its power.
Using Ambiguity To Gain Insight:
To use ambiguity to gain insight, act confused. Display a demeanor of befuddlement. Ask the other negotiator if he might explain his offer in different terms; that can be the ‘set up’ to change the discussion in the negotiation. Plus, in his explanation, he’ll give you some form of additional insight from which you can use to your benefit. If you do so astutely, you can lead him into a fog in which you present your perspective that leads him out of it (e.g. you said the red car cost $1,500 more than the black one, correct? Help me understand this, paint is paint, right? Since we’re just talking about its color, let’s call the red car black, then you can give it to me for $1,500 less.) Befuddled himself, the car salesman may attempt to tell you the difference in the paint makeup, but you can disallow his explanations as a factor in your request.
As you can see, the use of ambiguity can serve you well in a negotiation if you execute its use stealthfully and adroitly. If you can keep your ego in check from the onslaught of verbal abuse you may incur as the result of using this negotiation strategy, you’ll be able to gain more insight about the other negotiator’s perspective and win more negotiations … and everything will be right with the world.
What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear them. You can reach me at Greg@TheMasterNegotiator.com
Remember, you’re always negotiating!