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How to Use Stop-Loss Brackets When You Negotiate

“Knowing when to stop can be a life-saver. Using a stop-loss bracket helps to identify where you are in that process.” -Greg Williams, The Master Negotiator & Body Language Expert

When you negotiate, do you use a stop-loss bracket to control your emotions and the flow of the negotiation? You should, because if exercised properly, it prevents your emotions from hijacking your decisions during the negotiation.

It’s important to have a stop-loss bracket in place because, if you’re not sure about the lowest offer you can accept, you may not maximize the negotiation’s potential. If you’re unsure of the top bracket, you run the risk of losing what you’ve gained and/or upsetting the other negotiator.

Setting Stop-Loss Brackets:

You create a stop-loss bracket in the planning stage of a negotiation. Below the bottom bracket are offerings you can’t accept. Above, is the upper bracket point that you should consider not exceeding – That’s due to the potential subjection of losing the gains you’ve acquired. If you exceed the upper bracket, you might appear as being greedy.

To set the brackets, assess your worse and best-case scenarios. Do this for the least and most you think you can obtain from the negotiation. Do the same per the thoughts you believe the other negotiator has about his brackets. You can assign a probability to each bracket to increase its potentiality (e.g. 40% chance of losing if I go above/below bracket). You’d make that appraisal based on the information you’ve gathered per the needs, reasons, and wants the other negotiator has for negotiating with you.

Once you’ve made your evaluation, test it in a mock negotiation with a counterpart that understands the needs of the party you’ll be negotiating with. That process may uncover thoughts you’d not considered. If they do, consider altering your brackets to reflect the new insights you’ve gained. You may flirt with adjusting your percentage probabilities, too.

Controlling Negotiation Flow:

As you engage in the give-and-take of the negotiation, test the other negotiator’s bottom bracket by making a ridiculously low offer – this will also help set his expectations for what he can achieve. Be careful not to insult him. To avoid that, prior to making the offer, you might consider saying, “Please understand that I’m under tight guidelines per what I can offer in this situation.” Having stated that, you’ve prepared him for what’s to come. Once you make the offer, observe his reaction.

If he accepts your low offer, consider lowering what you thought his lower bracket would be. If he immediately rejects your offer without giving it real consideration, you may have to test him again or think about slightly upgrading his lower bracket. Throughout the process, he’ll be assessing your brackets, too. So, consider how you’ll respond to his offers. The exchanges that both of you have with one another will control the negotiation flow.


Stop-loss brackets are excellent to control yourself and a negotiation. Since you know what you can accept before you sit at the table, you don’t have to involve your emotions.

To make the process work better, know when you’re near your lower and upper brackets and those of the other negotiator. Once you reach your upper bracket, test it by asking for something slightly above what you’ve acquired – do it gently. As an example, you might say, “I really appreciate the effort that you’ve put into nearing the agreement that we’re about to make. I’d like to ask you for ‘x’ if you can do it.” If he grants it without making a counter-request, you’ve just received something in addition to what you had. If he requests something in return, you know you’ve reached your stopping point. Either way, you’ll be in a better position … and everything will be right with the world.

Remember, you’re always negotiating!

After reading this article, what are you thinking? I’d really like to know. Reach me at Greg@TheMasterNegotiator.com 

To receive Greg’s free “Negotiation Tip of the Week” and the “Sunday Negotiation Insight” click here http://www.themasternegotiator.com/greg-williams/

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