What You'll Learn
  • Bluffing is an unlikely or outrageous statement used to influence, motivate, or drive concessions
  • Lying is never acceptable in collaborative negotiations
  • To recognize, use and defend against bluffing

Recognize Bluffing

An unlikely or outrageous statement used to influence, motivate, or drive concessions.

A party pretends they will do that which they have no intention of doing, or pretends to be in a better position than they really are. Bluffing can be perfectly harmless, or dangerously close to lying. A Bluff is sometimes given away by body language, although it is not unusual to encounter a smooth delivery of a Bluff. People who can Bluff without being detected are referred to as having a "poker-face".

Expect this tactic to be used as part of one of these Negotiation Strategies (competitive, collaborative, avoidance, accommodation, compromise) and in these stages of the Negotiation Process (Preparation, Exchange, Bargain, Conclude, Execution).

Negotiation Strategies: Collaborative, Competitive and Compromise
Negotiation Stages: Exchange, Bargain and Conclude

Use of Bluffing in Collaborative Negotiations

Bluffing is rare in collaborative negations, but can be an effective tool to generate concessions if used sparingly and with full understanding of the consequences. Bluffing is extremely risky because if the other side calls your Bluff, you must follow through.

  • Lying is never acceptable in collaborative negotiations.

Defend Against Bluffing

There are preventive and defensive measures for handling Bluffing.


There are no shortcuts to BNP 6: Prepare, prepare, prepare. The more you know about the other side's interests, people and circumstances, the easier it will be to recognize the outrageousness of an assertion or the unlikelihood that it is accurate. Similarly there is no substitute to BNP 8: Focus on building trust; the more trust there is in the relationship the higher the risk for the party considering bluffing.


If you believe the other side is Bluffing, you can first Crunch to show your disbelief or suggest that Bluffing is not a good idea in this situation (said with a smile) and see if the assertion disappears. And if the Bluff is inconsequential, you can simply ignore it.

Your next defense against a potential Bluff is BNP 16: Use the power of the Negotiator's Probe. Ask open-ended questions that expose the Bluff and allow the discussion to continue on a more genuine note. If you can accept the consequences, you can call a person's Bluff by accepting a proposal that is not sincere, or rejecting a proposal they are trying to get you to accept, and thereby curtail any future Bluffing.

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