Apr 14, 2021

Use of the word “fair”

The most powerful word in a negotiation is “fair”. People are heavily influenced by how much they feel respected. Therefore, you need to tread carefully when using that word and when it’s used against you.

In the game that I described yesterday, most accepter’s will invariably reject any offer that is less than half of the proposer’s money. Most people make an irrational choice to take no money over some money because the negative emotional value of unfairness outweighs the positive rational value of money.

Typically, people drop the word “fair” in a negotiation when they are accusing you of being unfair. For instance, they will say, “We just want what’s fair.” or “We’ve given you a fair offer.” If you’re on the receiving end of one of these accusations, the best response is to follow up with a mirror and a label. For example, “Fair? It seems like you’re ready to provide evidence that supports that.” As always, it is important to use a deferential tone and remain calm.

The best way to use the word “fair” yourself in a negotiation is to start talks off with, “I want you to feel like you are being treated fairly at all times. So please stop me at any time if you feel I’m being unfair and we’ll address it.” It’s simple and sets you up as an honest dealer. 

You should strive for a reputation of being fair. “Winning” unfair deals sets you up for failure in the long run. Your reputation precedes you.