The ʻI Didnʼt Know – No One Told Me Anythingʼ Tactic

Rather than calling on the 'fifth amendment' right to remain silent, wide use has been made of what negotiators recognize as the concept of 'plausible deniability'. Most commonly this tactic masquerades as the 'I didn't know – no-one told me anything'. An attempt to negotiate their way out of an awkward situation.

Plausible Deniability is Not Sufficient Excuse

It can be easy when negotiating to be taken in by arguments containing slim content items allowing 'plausible deniability'. Indeed, such arguments encourage more generous negotiators to give the person the benefit of the doubt.

Those with long memories will recall a similar argument, now almost amusing in retrospect, being taken to its extreme. This was when US President Richard Nixon claimed over the Watergate scandal 'if the President does it, it's not illegal'. Maybe this will be the argument proffered by our political leaders to negotiate their way out of claims of wrongdoing. Of course, in the meantime they know nothing…

To counter the impact of such tactics, skilled negotiators need to be able to stand back sufficiently far from the substance of what is being denied. The influencing process that lies behind it will then become apparent.

Stand Back from The Substance and See The Process

This requires that you become good at negotiation process observation and diagnosis. Until you have that capability you will 'know nothing'!

Question: when did either your own, or neighborhood children last use 'plausible deniability' tactically?

And when did you…?

Tips on Countering Tactics

In our ENSI negotiation training we help participants become proficient in identifying the tactics being used by the other party, and then from our ENSI lists select the most effective counter-tactic by which to redress the balance of power.

The easy three step process is to:

  1. Identify the tactic – prior to negotiating anticipate what tactic/s the other party might use to influence you
  2. Review what process (not content) options you have for countering each tactic the other party may use
  3. Select the counter move – again, prior to negotiation, consciously choose the most appropriate counter-tactic for the outcome you wish to achieve.

To discuss this article in more depth or to explore developing your effective negotiation skills further please contact us on +612 9299 9688.

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ENS International (ENSI) provides negotiation consulting and training services helping people and organizations think and act differently to achieve more. 

Negotiators gain the edge using proven ENSI influencing processes incorporating commercial psychology with a deep understanding of human behaviour. ENSI delivers through Consulting Services and In-House or Open Course training. 

With over 60 Practitioners working within 75 countries we have a depth of experience across a diverse range of sectors.

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