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How to Negotiate: Never Give Others Your Deadline

When negotiating a deal, there are a few DOs and DON’Ts that are good rules of thumb.  Some are obvious, like not giving the full price you are willing to pay.  Other tips might not be so obvious, like never telling them your deadline.

You don’t have to lie; just don’t give them your drop dead date.  If you do you will be giving them more than just your deadline.  You’ll be giving them more power in the negotiation than you would perhaps intend.  Give them their deadline instead. Your deadline and their deadline do not need to be the same.


Reason #1

One of the best examples of the pitfalls of revealing your deadline in a negotiation was in the 1960s, when President Lyndon Johnson tried to negotiate an end to the Vietnam War before the end of his term as President.

The U.S. Delegation went to France, found a weekly rental at one of the finest hotels in Paris, and came ready to talk.  The Vietnamese on the other hand, feeling no pressure of a deadline, purchased a villa in the French countryside and started the negotiations by arguing about the shape of the negotiation table.  The Vietnamese delegation realized that Johnson was under tremendous time constraints and that they could use his sense of urgency to their advantage for power and leverage. As we know, Johnson was not successful in negotiating a settlement to the Vietnam War.

Reason #2

In the case where you need a deliverable from one party so you can then deliver to another party, it is a huge risk to give the first party your deadline.  If you give your ultimate deadline to the first party and they miss it, you can’t keep your word to the second party.  On the other hand, if you give them their deadline, you put yourself in the driver seat and can build in some buffer to allow you room to either: negotiate on the delivery date rather than pay a higher price to have the ultimate deadline met, or, allow for slippage time if the partner is late in their delivery so you can still meet your internal delivery dates.

Don’t lie, just don’t give them your deadline or reveal your sense of urgency.

[Negotiating topics from Caruso Leadership Institute’s The Winning Hand training program.]

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