On Being Battered by a Large Bank // Part 4

This is the last in the Battered series. The previous episode was about choosing the issues to focus on. This week it’s about negotiation tactics.


Negotiation is a vast subject and there’s no way it can be properly covered in one short email, so I’m just going to concentrate on two techniques – repetition and humour – that are often overlooked.

But if you are interested in getting a better handle on negotiating effectively, Chris Voss’ Never Split The Difference is the book to read.


When you are involved in a negotiation and you are trying to work out whether the other side really means what they say, repeating your question (in a different way) over the course of the negotiation is a useful technique. If you get the same response each time, with the same emphasis and the same emotional weight, then it’s likely that they really mean what they say.

But if the response differs each time, especially if they come back with reduced conviction, or emphasis, then it’s likely that it’s a bluff.

It works the other way too. If you respond with the same (or increased) conviction, emphasis, or emotional content every time you are probed on a particular point, then the other side are much more likely to believe that you really mean what you say.


Negotiations are often stressful. They also encourage people to take entrenched positions.

Humour, used correctly, reduces tension, relaxes people, and enables human-to-human communication (as opposed to role-to-role, or opponent-to-opponent, communication). Humour is a bridge-builder.

There’s data to back this up. A study monitored 40 people who were being hired as executives by the same company. Their use of humour was measured during the interview process. A year later (after they had been hired), there was a positive correlation between a) those that had performed substantially better than their counterparts over the preceding twelve months, and b) those that used humour more often during the interview process. You can read a summary of the study here.

Ok, so a job interview is not the same as a negotiation, but the study shows that, in a social context, the use of humour often correlates with success. The study reinforces what we know intuitively: humour relaxes people, and relaxed people are easier to negotiate with.

Negotiations are often stressful. They also encourage people to take entrenched positions.