“Tell them that if they don’t sign by noon tomorrow, I’m going to lease the space to someone else!” “If you don’t agree to my insurance language, this deal is dead.” “We have four other people who badly want this space, and each will pay more than what’s in our deal.”
The specter of each possibility is the threat. It doesn’t matter how probable it is that, late in a deal, one party or the other will “walk” if the deal is signed a week from now rather than “now.”
Yes, it’s possible that there are other prospective tenants lurking around the property and it is possible that other landlords are tossing great offers at your prospective tenant.
But, these things are true so rarely, that no one believes these threats. Yet, landlords and tenants keep trying.
Granted that under the right circumstances and with confirming facts to support the urgency of the plea, such threats should be taken seriously. After all, in a very, very small, yet disturbing number of cases, landlords and tenants walk from a late-stage deal to take another, more attractive one. That really doesn’t happen much. More often, a tenant is negotiating for a space that has been “sucking wind” and the likelihood that four prospects have shown up all at once after 18 months is quite low. It could happen, but so could two planes crash mid-air. Yet, brokers and landlords drag that old song out far too often. And, we’re not going to tag just brokers and landlords with that charge; tenants try to sing that song as well.
When such “threats” of disastrous consequences, such as “if you don’t agree to do what I want and do it right now” are tossed across the tables, there are three categories of response. One is to avert the possibility regardless of the probability of the threat being actualized. Another is to laugh it off. The third one we’re thinking of derives from a response to a threat made to the real estate vice president of a large retail chain. The landlord, during the course of tedious negotiations for an anchor store, told this vice president that another tenant was now interested in the space. The response was something like, “That’s great for you because we are bottom fishers and any other prospective tenant will certain pay more than we’re paying. So, call me if it doesn’t work out and we can talk about the new, lower rent.”
What negotiators seemingly fail to remember (or possibly, to know) is that negotiating landlords and tenants are dating, intending to get engaged and then married. There is plenty of time for posturing after they get married. Save the threats and lies for later. Actually, that’s not what Ruminations thinks. What we think is that the dating process allows the parties to learn about each other. It is a time to build trust in one another. When parties impose false conditions on each other and threaten each other, how will they treat each other once a lease is signed?
That’s where Henny Penny (a/k/a) Chicken Little comes in. Yes, the sky may fall, but it hasn’t happened very often. So, who would believe Ms. Penny ever again? While bluffing is a time-honored and accepted negotiation tool, successful bluffing relies on retaining some shred of credibility. Recently we heard a seven year old say this about his parents: “No means yes.” It then came to us: “How are we going to believe you when our experience tells us that you don’t mean what you say?” Bluffing is a valuable poker player’s skill because it isn’t wheeled out at every opportunity. If it were, “I stand” would mean “I am bluffing.”
That’s not all. The practice is obnoxious.
One of our examples began with, “Tell them….” We say, “Tell them yourself. Impair YOUR relationship, not my relationship, with the other side.” Actually, we haven’t figured out how to say that. Suggestions, please? Years ago, a very, very talented lawyer we were using told us to “Tell them this, and then tell them that.” We asked, “Would you tell them?” The answer was, “No, I don’t have the nerve.”
Speaking of lawyers, it is reasonably well know that public trust in them is pretty low. To qualify that, trust in all lawyers (but your own) is pretty low. [What may not be well known is that business executives rate even lower.] A December 8-11, 2014 Gallop poll tells the story. It asked: “Please tell me how you would rate the honesty and ethical standards of people in these different fields – – very high, high, average, low or very low?” The results (for three of those professions on a scale of “Very High/High”): Lawyers – 21%; Business Executives – 17%; and Car Salespeople – 8%. Similar polls say the same thing.
Is this what we want to hear? Probably not. Perhaps, we can all start by speaking to each other and acting with each other in credible ways.