The good cop/bad cop negotiation tactic has much in common with the compare/contrast persuasion principle – making the desired outcome look even more favorable when compared to something worse.

If you often negotiate as a team, the good cop/bad cop negotiation tactic is easy to set up. Decide ahead of time that one of you will always be kind and helpful, while the other is mean, negative, and the deliverer of bad news. If the negotiation gets to a sticking point, the bad cop can offer something out of the range of possibility before the good cop comes in with the true parameters for success. In this way, the good cop’s offer will appear to be far more achievable because it is positioned against the bad cop’s alternative.

The logical counter to the good cop/bad cop negotiation tactic is to focus like a laser beam on the bad cop – since this is part of the dynamic meant to engage an emotional response from you. Consider getting emotional. Denounce his behavior; become angry at his uncooperativeness. Use the bad cop’s offer as a reason to delay or express indecision. Indicate uncertainty to even do business with such a person – and walk out of the negotiation if necessary. Calling the bad cop on the carpet takes away the good cop advantage – he is now seen as trying to shore up a sinking ship rather than as a savior of the negotiation.

Another approach is to simply call the other side on using the good cop/bad cop tactic. “I see what you are doing here. You are trying to use the good cop/bad cop approach. This is not a used car negotiation so let’s get serious and focus on the needs of both parties.” Or, using humor, you could say, “I see you are trying to use the good cop/bad cop approach. Keep practicing! I’m sure you’ll get it down some day to where it will be effective. Now let’s move on to the real issues in this negotiation and look at ways we can both be satisfied.”

Successful negotiation skills can be employed even before an impasse arises. By employing the good cop/bad cop scenario from the beginning, you have this tactic set up in reserve. It may not be needed; but if it is, you are ready.