Negotiation Concession: Be Careful What You Give Away for Free

Negotiation Concession: The Fisherman

Great negotiators don’t give away too much in a negotiation, also known as a ‘negotiation concession’. Plus, great negotiators also encourage their opponents to give away lots whilst getting nothing in return. We call this the free fish principle.

Imagine the Arctic and a fisherman catching fish around an ice hole. Our story takes shape…

Cartoon of fisherman ice fishing with fish to the side


eskimo with fish on sledge being pulled by huskies


Cartoon polar bear smelling out the fisherman


Eskimo looking surprised as polar bear runs towards him


Eskimo panicking as polar bear gets closer


Eskimo holds fish up


Eskimo throws polar bear a fish to stop him chasing


Polar bear with fish in mouth enjoying it


Polar bear chases eskimo for more fish after his first

The fisherman has tried to throw the Polar Bear off of the scent with a free fish. A good idea right up until the Bear eats that fish and comes after more. Negotiations are similar. If you give away something for free, most people will look for more. Let’s say that you are buying a second-hand car and the price asked is £5,000. As you arrive, gree the seller, and kick the tyres, he soon says, ‘I could give you £500 off’. What do you immediately think?

Yes, there’s more where that came from, and you reply with, ‘Maybe. What could take a little more off please?’. And so you are the Polar Bear chasing for more free fish, with the fisherman willingly throwing them to you. Just like our seller, offering a little more off the price, and a little more, without you giving anything in return.

The Moral of the Story is ‘No Free Fish’.

Don’t give away anything unless you get something in return. This is known as a ‘Conditional concession’. Basically, getting something back for what you gave. Coming back to our second-hand car scenario, if you were selling the car and didn’t want to give away any free fish, a better sentence might be, ‘If you can give me cash now, I can take £250 off of the price’. You got something in return if they take you up on the offer. Making that negotiation concession conditional.

To help make this learning stick I suggest drawing yourself a fish on a no entry sign, like this one below:

Blue drawn fish with a red x drawn across it

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