Greg Williams

By Greg Williams

Beware Silly Provocations – How to Hack Crisis Negotiations

Beware Silly Provocations – How to Hack Crisis Negotiations 150 150 Greg Williams, MN, CSP

“Never fall prey to a silly provocation. It can be the prelude to a contrived crisis.” -Greg Williams, The Master Negotiator & Body Language Expert

She wanted everyone to know that she was upset. Her language was foul, loud, and silly. She presented it as a provocation to induce hot drama. Its delivery occurred in a cool and calculated manner with the intent of inciting a crisis. One might think that occurred during a nasty negotiation – it happened in a small bank branch. And the occurrence was the pronouncements of a customer who at first demeaned a bank teller and then the branch manager.

In a negotiation, there are ways to hack situations such as what occurred with the foul silly-mouth customer. The following are a few of those hacks.


The individual in the bank repeatedly complained aloud about the possibility of her ‘personal’ information being overheard by other customers – note that she meant her personal information – she claimed the teller asked for it to determine her identity. To the customer, that was an offense.

Hack: When dealing with people that appear to lack lucidity, assess if their demeanor is an act. Based on your assessment, be logical or illogical with them. Then, note the change in their demeanor. If they begin to use logic to strengthen their position, use logic in addressing them further. If they’re illogical, ask what they would do if they were in your position with the guidelines you’re working with. Either way, they’ll give you the solution to the problem. Thank them for it. And if it’s to your benefit, use it. If it’s not, excuse them or yourself from the surroundings.

Had the customer been in a different environment (e.g. church) and she’d not received the outcome sought, her demeanor more than likely would have been different. Thus, always consider the environment that one is in when they project certain conducts. And question if it would be the same if not in that setting.

Personal Assessment:

In a negotiation, always consider the type of individual you’re dealing with. Evaluate to what degree she’s educated, a bully embarrasses easily, or someone that never adopts shame for an action. That insight will give you a measure of understanding as to what type of personality you’re dealing with. That, in turn, will give you clues to how best to deal with that individual.

Educated – Everything being equal, people with higher levels of education can be dealt with at higher levels of reasoning.

Hack: Thus, if negotiating with someone of this ilk, try using logic to reason with them. They may not succumb to your behests. But you’ll have a greater chance of calming them before they become more irrational acting.

Bully – People with bully tendencies seek attention. They want to be perceived as someone that demands respect – in their mind they’re someone that others should not trifle with. Some negotiators will use bullying as a tactic – they’ll do so to determine how far they can push you.

Hack: If you sense someone’s attempting to use provocation as a bullying tool, stand your ground – act bravely! If you give in, they’ll push you harder and further.

Embarrassment – The person that embarrasses easily is on the opposite coin of the person that never adopts shame for her actions. The shameless person will attempt to project her antics to burrow into your psyche. By doing so, she assumes she’ll enhance the probability that you’ll acquiesce to her demands.

Hack 1: For the shameless person, don’t let her tactics effect you. Suggest aloud that you’re aware of her attempts – do so boldly! Then note to what degree she escalates or de-escalates the situation. If she escalates, she may be testing your resolve to determine its validity. What you do next will impact the rest of your interactions – choose wisely between upping your stance again or deflating it. If she de-escalates, she will have given you control. Make haste with it while softening your behavior as her reward.

Hack 2: For the person that embarrasses easily, temper her antics by raising the stakes – deal with her sternly but in degrees. She doesn’t want others judging her harshly. Thus, she won’t escalate a situation that causes her embarrassment – therein lies her vulnerability. Be cautious about appearing to take advantage of her. Anyone can become irrational when pushed too hard. That’ll make them less predictable, which could make a negotiation more difficult.

Provocations, silly or not, can occur in any negotiation. Controlled provocations are tools that good negotiators employ as a tactic. Having greater insight into hacking their efforts will prevent you from falling into their traps, while agilely avoiding hidden crises … and everything will be right with the world.

Remember, you’re always negotiating!

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