Sports metaphors are nothing new in business. In fact, they’re often cited as indicators of a male-dominated workplace environment that excludes women and discounts their experience. But in “New Rules of the Game,” author Susan Packard turns this idea on its head. For Packard, gamesmanship is not about winning, but rather adopting the broader principles of sportsmanship: treating people fairly and respectfully, showing grace in success and failure, rebounding from setbacks, and building strong teams.
Packard devotes a chapter to each of her 10 strategies, one of which is titled “Master the Strategies of Brinkmanship,” which she defines as gaining an advantage without clearly stating one’s goals. It’s a powerful negotiation skill with four components:
The Walk Away - The key to any negotiation is the willingness to walk away from a bad deal. Which terms of a deal are amenable to compromise? Which terms must you insist on? The Walk Away is not mere bluff or bluster. You must actually be willing to dismiss the deal. This doesn’t necessarily mean the end of negotiation, however. Sometimes, The Walk Away can serve as a signal to the other party that you mean business.
The Bluff. Bluffing doesn’t mean lying. It simply means giving an impression that your position is stronger than it actually may be. Consider that a poker player who bluffs isn’t lying about the cards she holds. She’s just acting as though they’re great. The Bluff is all about displaying confidence. On the flip side, you may choose to call the bluff of your counterparty to undermine their strategy.
Sizing Up the Room. This tactic requires strong observational skills and careful listening. It also requires thinking on your feet, as you can’t prepare for it ahead of time. Methods include discerning the power hierarchy of the opposing team, picking up clues to your counterparty’s personal interests and gauging mood.
The Tell. If expert poker players are to be believed, everyone has their “tell,” a tic or micro expression that gives away what they’re really thinking no matter what they say. Again, the key is careful observation: Is your opponent showing confident body language, or are his nerves showing as he chatters to fill uncomfortable silences? Pay attention to what people are not saying before making your move.
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