Why Taking Control Is a Smart Contracting Tactic


You’ve heard that old expression to the effect that it’s better to do and then ask for forgiveness than it is to ask for permission in the first place.

I’m not sure if that’s always right in a social setting, but in business it often works out in your favor.

After all, there’s a lot of conflicting interests, like the need to demonstrate the ability to take independent action.

But in the end, much of it is contextual. Eating the pie your mom made for the party tomorrow night at Aunt Sally’s isn’t one for which your initiative is going to be rewarded.

But there’s a related contract negotiating tactic: demonstrating control or dominance.

Lawyers and other negotiators know that controlling the drafting of documents engenders significant control over the outcome. Clients who think that it will save them money to let the other side present the initial draft are very short sighted, indeed. Psychologically, you’re now battling uphill – your deal point insertions are changes – you are pushing against the momentum of the printed word. And for some reason about which it makes no difference to attempt to explain, people in our society place an outsized value on what’s in print.

But let’s say that you’ve allowed yourself to get into that position. Now what?

One tactic that can be used to increase your leverage is to express dominance when making changes to the document. As in the old expression set out above, don’t go asking for permission; instead, command that changes be made.

“Please change 90 days to 180 days” is weak and wimpy. “Change 90 to 180 and get the document back to me by noon tomorrow” is strong and dominant. Is it guaranteed to get you 180 days? Heck no. Nothing is. But it’s more likely to bear fruit than the wimpy first example.

The same tactic plays itself out in other, more complex ways as well, all based on triggers placed in our minds decades ago.

Those who think this is some sort of testosterone driven notion, some voice and paper equivalent of road rage, have little to no understanding of human nature.

That’s why they’re willing to save a few thousand dollars up front to potentially lose millions later.

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