Rabbit Rule #8: “Shock Treatment” Is of Very Limited Use in Negotiation

You recall that the rabbit began his negotiations by screaming at the top of his lungs. Were the rabbit a lesser figure in the field of negotiations, it might be said that this method simply didn’t work. Well, bite your tongue for such thoughts.

I prefer to think that the rabbit intentionally used the screaming act to set the stage for his shift to the low-key approach that was, finally, so successful. Either way, the point is that the screaming, in and of itself, got the rabbit nowhere.

Intimidation is not the main tool of negotiation. Although screaming, wild gyrations, threats, and intimidations are not to be overlooked, their overuse renders them not only useless, but dangerously counterproductive.

For example, if you habitually have allowed your spouse to take advantage of you, there is a good chance that you can stop this by the use of some shock therapy. When your spouse calls, let him or her have a strong dose of your anger. Say that you will not stand to be abused. Threaten to call the police or get a restraining order. This will probably work this one time.

Or, if the time to go to court is near and your reasonable offers have not caused your spouse to move toward a fair settlement, say that you are tired of negotiating and that you have instructed your lawyer to prepare for trial. Again it may work, and if it doesn’t, you really haven’t lost anything. On the other hand, if you call your spouse every day with some new threat or if you attempt to play the big shot at every negotiation session, your shocking conduct will lose all of its power.

Stated another way: You must respect the other side. Stories of intimidation sell very well in men’s locker rooms. Some have even written whole books on intimidation as a negotiation technique. The truth is this game works two ways. If you pick up a stick, you ought not to be surprised when the other team picks up an even bigger one! This is not to say that you should never use a stick. It is to say that you must understand the limits and risks involved in doing so. A very good trial lawyer told me early in my career, “The greatest advantage that a lawyer can have in trial is to be underestimated by the other side.” The belief that winning can be accomplished totally through intimidation fails to recognize that the other side also has power. Some of the most powerful figures in history have been vanquished by failure to have proper respect for the enemy. Apparently, the rabbit either heard about them or read about them. We should learn from the rabbit.

Robin M. Green, Divorce: When It’s the Only Answer (The Ordinary Mortals Guide, Inc., 2005), Chapter 13, pp. 197-198.