Communication Strategies: Using the Flinch Response

Today, we tell you how to negotiate using the ‘flinch’ technique or “emotional exaggeration”, one of the oldest communication strategies, although also one of the most unknown by negotiators.

What is the flinch and how does it work?

It is about overreacting to the proposal we receive from the other party. It may be that that response occurs unconsciously and we are not aware of it. It may however be the case that we deliberately overreact, emphasizing our dissatisfaction before our interlocutor. In this case, we will be using the flinch technique.

Here is an example of this communication strategy: we want to make a proposal to the other party in the amount of 100. We put it forward believing that our offer will be met with enthusiasm when, suddenly, we see that our interlocutor reacts with verbal fuss: “that is ridiculous,” “so much?!”, “is this a joke?”; or gestures that denote visible discontent (shaking of the head, snorting, etc.).

Learn more: Business Negotiation Strategies: How Your Mind Affects Your Goals

What would our normal reaction be?

Of course, trying to lower tension and automatically adjust our proposal to the interests of the other. In some cases, the other party may react with a counteroffer well far away from our proposal, which will lead us to think that it will not be easy to reach an agreement, and then we will be much more willing to give in as we negotiate.

During a negotiation process, it is only natural that there will be different points of view that result in different proposals and expressions of disconformity. That flinch situation can be real or fake, but in any case, the effect is almost the same: whoever is facing the emotional overreaction ends up being convinced that their proposal is unbalanced and they will instinctively try to adjust it.

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There are negotiators who use ‘flinching’ continuously, even in response to very acceptable and beneficial proposals. Their sole purpose is to seek concessions from the other party, regardless of the good deal that they could reach and which may even actually be on the table. They forget for a moment how to negotiate and satisfy their own interests because they see an opportunity to ‘cash in’.

How can we neutralize the flinch?

If we have to deal with this communication strategy, the best attitude we can show is taking advantage of that excessive reaction to try to better explain our proposal.

Rather than getting intimidated by the refusal of the other party, we will take it as an invitation to exchange views. Our interlocutor will note that we have not lost our confidence and will choose to explore other perspectives, often inclined towards the win-win in which both parties will benefit.

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Asking questions is also one of the imperatives to counter flinch; this way we nip in the bud our natural inclination to make concessions to the other party as a result of the overreaction on the other side of the table. The main thing to know how to negotiate in any situation is to learn to stay calm and try to find out what has led our interlocutor to react in that way. Asking questions is the only way to find out.

Would you know how to communicate when faced with the flinch response? Share it.

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