Not everyone plays fair. You learned this as a child on the playground and I bet that you are still learning that some people will do most anything to get what they want. This includes lying by omission, misrepresenting facts, and manipulation.

Catching the other party in the act may be the best medicine. First you need to recognize the dirty trick and then you need to call them on it. The confrontation can be direct, but I find a more diplomatic approach may be the better method. This helps let the other party know that you caught them, but gives them an out to repair things or make amends. You can use words like, “I don’t understand what you mean by this (insert dirty trick); can you explain to me what you are trying to accomplish?” This sends the message that you don’t want to see this trick again. Often this approach is met by nervous laughter and back peddling and the negotiation gets back on track.

Unfortunately, in real life you don’t always recognize the dirty trick until after the meeting or even after the agreement is done. I have had it happen to me, too. Once, on the drive home from a negotiation, I replayed the events of the meeting in my head and it hit me: I just got screwed. How could I be so stupid?

So what are you to do? You could write it off as a good learning experience. Surely next time you will recognize the trick and stop the other party in the act.

Or, you can try to reopen the negotiation. I will admit that this takes some guts, but you really have nothing to lose. You can go back to the other party and confront them by saying that, “I was confused by the (insert dirty trick) and if I had known better, I would have offered a different option. If you are willing to reopen the discussion, this would create the option for us doing business again.” Note the subtle threat.

By phrasing it this way, you don’t call them a “stinking liar” (which they might be) and you give them a chance to save the relationship with you. If done with diplomacy, you might get a second chance. Play fair and say exactly what you need to fix the deal.

The sad truth is that some people who play dirty tricks don’t give a damn about doing business with you again.

Either way, the lesson is learned.

John Bradley Jackson
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