Ask Alignor

Should I hold back when dealing with others so I have room to move and can make concessions later?

There is a common misperception that the best way to negotiate is to “give yourself room to move.” This misperception is based on a mistaken belief that the best way to negotiate is through the high-low game, a series of back and forth interactions in which each side takes a position and then haggles to see if the two sides can find a compromise acceptable to both. If you engage in the high-low game, then you definitely need to give yourself “room to move.” This is because the high-low game inherently encourages both sides to nibble and try to get the other side to cave in. Unfortunately, this back and forth haggling dynamic also tends to harm relationships since each side is trying to “beat” the other and get a better deal. If you would prefer to negotiate in a manner that preserves and even improves relationships, then you should definitely not engage in the back and forth haggling of the high-low game, and you do not then need to hold back with others so you can make late concessions in order to close a deal. Remember, when you make late concessions, you are training the other person to hold out and nibble so that they do not leave anything on the table (or in your pocket)! Instead of holding back concessions to make later, you should always negotiate a “package.” This means if you make one change to the negotiated package at the other person’s request, you will likely have to make another change to to ensure the package still meets your needs. This balancing and negotiation of a package serves as a strong disincentive for people to nibble or hold out for last minute concessions.