Jun 18, 2021

Negative leverage

Opposite to positive leverage, negative leverage is a negotiator’s ability to make their counterpart suffer. It is based on threats like “If you don’t do X, then I will destroy your reputation.” 

This sort of leverage gets people’s attention because of loss aversion: people are more likely to act in order to avoid a loss than to achieve a similar gain. That said, it is best to avoid making direct threats at all and be extremely careful with making even subtle ones. 

If you try to shove negative leverage down your counterpart’s throat, it might be perceived as you taking away their autonomy. People will often sooner die than give up their autonomy.

A more subtle technique is to label your negative leverage and make it clear without attacking. For instance, a sentence like “It seems like you don’t care what position you’re leaving me in.” is a vague threat that can open up the negotiation process if your counterpart isn’t being cooperative.