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Is bluff allowed in negotiation?

The art of negotiation is often associated with a certain level of deceit, or at the very least, bending the truth. However, is it really acceptable to lie in negotiations? Many people believe that a little white lie is necessary to gain an advantage in a negotiation. But is this belief founded on any basis? Let's explore the reasons why this belief persists and what can be done to avoid it.

The Science Behind Bluffs and Lies

According to a study by Curhan, Elfenbein, and Xu in 2006, bluffing or lying has no place in the negotiation process. It's important to understand that lies, no matter how small, can ultimately harm your reputation in the long run. Additionally, if your bluff is discovered, the consequences can be severe, including losing the deal or damaging your relationships with others. Furthermore, it's impossible to lie permanently as lies have a way of coming out eventually.

Dealing with Lying in Negotiations

So, what should you do if you find yourself facing a negotiator who is bluffing or lying? There are several things you can do to handle this situation effectively:

  • Formalize the agreement in writing: This is a good way to ensure that both parties are clear on the terms of the agreement and that there is no ambiguity or room for deception.

  • Offer to return to the previous step: If a lie has been revealed, it's important to take a step back and reassess the situation. Offering to return to the previous step of the negotiation process can help rebuild trust and find a mutually acceptable solution.

  • Don't insist on the lie: Trying to force the other party to stick to a lie can be counterproductive and may result in both parties losing out on a good deal.


In conclusion, it's important to remember that lies, even small ones, have no place in the negotiation process. The consequences of lying can be severe and ultimately lead to a loss of reputation and trust. Instead, focus on building strong relationships, being honest and transparent, and finding mutually beneficial solutions.


Curhan, J. R., Elfenbein, H. A., & Xu, H. (2006). What do people value when they negotiate? Mapping the domain of subjective value in negotiation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 91(3), 493-512.

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