Rabbit Rule #12: Think Ahead or Leave the Back Door Open

The fastest way to lose credibility in negotiations is to make statements that you can’t back up. This is true on two fronts.

First, if you make statements that are untrue, then all the other side has to do is check them out to discover that you are wrong. If they do, at best they will think you are sloppy. At worst they will think you’re dishonest. Either way, you lose.

Second, if you make threats that you can’t keep (bluff ), you must consider what the consequences will be if your hand is called. There is an important twist on this consider-the-consequences-of-your-threat rule. Understand that there are numerous items that make good threats, but are quite lackluster when carried out. An example is the threat to bring up the spouse’s adultery. Sometimes, this threat is enough to produce great fear and anxiety in a spouse. The truth is, however, when it is actually brought up in court, on deposition or in pleadings, nine times out of ten it has the effect of a whipping with a wet noodle. The adulterer usually is relieved that the revelation is over, and everyone else shrugs and says, “So what?” So don’t push too hard on such threats. Sometimes merely hinting at what you might say gets the job done and leaves the back door open, whereas pushing too hard with wild threats merely gets you so far out on thin ice that you can’t get back to shore.

Robin M. Green, Divorce: When It’s the Only Answer (The Ordinary Mortals Guide, Inc., 2005), Chapter 13, p. 201.