Meet in the Middle

Description:  A compromise move.  You or your counterparty offers to do the reasonable thing and split the difference between your two positions.  Very often you’ll encounter this approach during the concession-trading phase of the negotiation.

Not very creative or strategic.   Can also be used to make you give up too much in a bad compromise.

The problem with this tactic is that even though it seems fair and straight-forward on its face, it is easy to set up by simply anchoring high and making two or three small concessions early.  Then, in the name of keeping everything friendly, he magnanimously offers to “meet in the middle” and move on to the next important issue.

This tactics sounds reasonable and fair.  Sometimes it is.  Sometimes it’s not.

Intent:  The simple explanation for this tactic is to strike a fair, win-win compromise.  The more complicated purpose is to trick you into overpaying or under-receiving.

You’ll do “Meet in the Middle” three ways:

  1. You’re haggling in a single-variable contest for a low value commodity.  A quick way to cover a lot of ground and make a sale or purchase.
  2. You haven’t done your homework and either didn’t set up properly with a range of variables or don’t know the true value of the assets you are working with.  He springs an innocent-sounding compromise on you , and using a naive benchmark of “50-50 sounds fair” you agree
  3. As part of an organized concession strategy.   You have done your homework, and want to get a low-priority variable out of the way early.  Also good if you want to break an impasse and keep the flow moving.

Style:  Designed to sound collaborating, but can be quite competitive.  Can be used to move from an opening competitive style to a a more conciliatory compromise (or even as a face-saving way of dropping to an accommodative position.

Counter-tactic —  Call his Bluff.  Point out that he started our extremely aggressive and isn’t negotiating in good faith.   Take a break.  Meet in the Middle is a stress-reliever.  After even a brief recess you’ll see the problem with fresh eyes.  Or you can turn the tables by taking the mid-point as his new L and starting from the beginning.  If he offers to split the difference at 400 (to his anchor of 300 and your L of 500), then you respond, “I understand why you see 400 as a good number, but I’m barely making any profit at 480.  You must either be padding your number or running an inefficient operation.  I can help you with #2, but we’re going to need to factor in some kind of consulting fee.

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