top of page

How to Safely Disarm a Hardball Negotiation Tactic - Belittling your Alternatives

Updated: Oct 3, 2023

Erika is nervous and excited.

Today, she is asking her manager for a raise. After months of hesitation, she has created a bubble of confidence around her. She has also put in the work in creating an option B which is giving her an extra boost of energy.

Her option B in this case is an effective fallback option in case her manager rejects her request for a pay raise. She has another job offer from her current company's competitor. But first she wants to know if she her present company will match the market rates.

The second job offer is her ace in the hole. It gives her power in the negotiation.

Equipped and primed, she bravely steps into the negotiation.

Neon sign not fearless just brave
Photo by Nick Fewings, Unsplash

Erika says to her manager, "You know, I genuinely value the eight years I've devoted to this company. Having said that, I'm also aware that the current market rate for the role I perform is $210,000. I would like to discuss how we can get me to that number."

Her manager interrupts, "Erika, I don't think so. We just have no room in the budget."

Erika stays unfazed. She is going to ask if they can find other ways of compensating her.

Her manager stops her, "I am sorry, I can't think of anything else we can offer."

Erika counters, "I am sorry to hear that. I wanted to let you know that while I was not actively looking, Company Thrive Recruitment reached out and has provided an offer of $218,000 for a similar role. However, my loyalty lies here, with this organization. I am hoping we can get close to that."

Her manager, clearly not expecting this confidence from Erika, takes a moment to regain his composure. With a slightly dismissive tone, he finally retorts, 'Oh, that Company? Rumor has it they're on the brink of bankruptcy. Trust me it's all smoke and mirrors. My sources are pretty reliable on this.'

Guess what? Erika has just encountered the hardball tactic in negotiation - Belittling your Alternatives.

what is this negotiation hardball tactic & why is it used?

It's an underhanded tactic to make you question your alternatives and it's prevalent in many different industries. In real estate, this tactic is often used to sway potential buyers. For instance, when a couple shows interest in a property but mentions considering another one in a nearby neighborhood, the agent might casually drop a comment about how that area is notorious for its plumbing issues, even if it's not entirely true. Similarly, in automobile sales, a dealer might undermine a competing brand by exaggerating the frequency of its recalls or making anecdotal references to its supposed unreliability.

At it's core, this tactic is designed to exploit our confidence or lack thereof. It gives itself power because it taps into our fears and doubts. When faced with decisions, especially ones of massive consequence, we tend to pick choices that seem to promise the least risk. By casting shadows over our available options, this tactic nudges us towards a particular path — often the one that our sneaky counterpart desires us to take.

Here are 5 ways to counter this hardball tactic

Dismiss and Refocus: One of the most straightforward methods to counter this tactic is to dismiss the remarks. Acknowledge the comment and swiftly steer the conversation back to the primary topic. For instance, you can say, "I appreciate your concern, but I'd like to focus on the value I bring to this organization and the compensation that reflects that."

Respond with Facts or Discuss the Budget: If someone attempts to belittle an alternative, counteract with factual information that challenges their claim. For example, "I've done extensive research and found that the company you mentioned has had consistent growth over the past five years." Alternatively, you can bypass the belittling entirely and bring the discussion back to the main point. "Regardless of other company's status, I'd like to discuss the budget constraints or any specific reasons that prevent meeting my pay request here."

Highlight Recent Successes: Redirect the conversation towards your achievements, emphasizing your value to the organization. You can say, "While we're discussing compensation, I'd like to point out that I've led three successful projects in the past year alone, which resulted in a 20% increase in revenue. I believe my contributions warrant a reevaluation of my compensation."

Use the Power of Silence: Sometimes, the most powerful response is not to respond at all. Silence can be unsettling for the person trying to undermine your position. By choosing not to engage with the tactic and simply waiting silently, you put the onus on the other party to fill the void, often leading them to reconsider their approach or even backtrack on their statement.

Seek Clarification: Asking for further details or sources can put the other party on the spot, especially if they're using baseless claims to belittle your alternatives. For example, "Can you provide more specifics about that claim?" or "That's interesting; where did you hear that information?"

For the longest time, I fumbled and rambled when trying to ask for a pay raise. Little did I know that there is a structured way you can ask and receive the compensation you deserve. Finally, I trained in the science of influence and negotiation and applied them. This is the script I have used to ask and receive thousands of dollars in additional compensation.

While you might encounter tactics meant to diminish your resolve, remember why you took this step in the first place. You didn't initiate this discussion to be intimidated. With every confidence shaking you had, every self-doubt you squashed along the way, you know your worth. Stay rooted in your purpose, trust in your worth, and continue to confidently ask to be paid.

5 views0 comments


bottom of page