How to negotiate better?

Exploiting the psychology behind negotiations

Namburi Srinath
4 min readJun 21, 2022


We all deal with negotiations on daily basis. Whether it’s our mother trying to convince us to“Eat bitter gourd” or you asking your manager for a salary hike, we have to admit that our lives move forward because of negotiations. We might negotiate better if we understand the basic psychology behind it.

Here are some techniques that can be used for our personal leverage. In fact, we might had actually used it without even knowing.

Foot in the Door technique (FIDT)

Agreeing to a small request will make one more amenable to a larger request when asked after some time.

Cartoon representation of FIDT (Pic Source: Article)

Assume the following hypothetical situation —

Your friend asked you to lend money for bus ride. You agree. He/She then borrows money for lunch. You tend to agree as it’s just an add-on to the first request. He/She then asks for, “Let’s go to bar and drink” and you might as well agree to it because it’s just some extra bucks compared to everything you had signed up till now.

Now, if your friend would have asked you to lend money for bus, lunch and drinks all at once, you would have definitely denied it as it would be a ridiculous request. This is FITD technique, where agreeing to smaller requests makes us more amenable to bigger requests.

This works best in following cases:

  1. If there’s a proper gap between subsequent requests (You can’t ask money for travel and food within 10 second gap)
  2. If the request is ‘prosocial’ i.e something that does good (Eg: Lending money for food, travel etc; makes it more amenable while asking money for fancy cloth shopping might not be!)
  3. If the subsequent requests are consistent and are on same topic. Asking your friend to loan some money and then asking them to babysit your child won’t fall under FIDT as both these requests are very different in nature.

Door in the Face technique (DITF)

Denying to a large request will make one more amenable to a smaller request.

Cartoon representation of DITF (Pic Source: Article)

If you just rejected someone’s request, you will feel guilty/sorry for that person and might try to “make it up” by agreeing to small requests. That’s basically DIFT. Best example can be parents buying toys to their kids. When a kid asks for an expensive toy that the parent can’t buy, they will feel guilty and are mostly obliged to buy a small toy/ice-cream etc; to make them feel good. The irony is that the kid mightn’t know that they are using DIFT. Or maybe they know, and use it cleverly!! :)

Unlike FIDT (where there should be time gap between subsequent requests), in DIFT, the subsequent request can be asked immediately as that guilt feeling won’t last for a long duration.

Low Ball technique

Pitch up an attractive offer and increase the price once the offer is accepted. In other words, agreeing to a small request will make one more amenable to a larger request when asked immediately (not exactly opposite to FIDT if observed closely!)

An example depicting Low Ball technique (Credits: Quizlet)

If you observe the conversation between a common household and the repairman, it usually follows Low Ball technique. The conversation will be something similar to — “Can you repair the fan for $50?” Once the electrician completes the task, the owner might ask — “As you are already repairing the fan, can you also repair the TV for free?!”

It’s basically making people work for free. Our mind cues a signal like “Just because we came till here, let’s complete this task as well.” Actively agreeing to a deal will make us accountable to complete the deal even though it’s changed a bit later.

An experimental example is — “If you sign up for a study which starts at 9am, but they change the start time at 7am at last minute, you will still attend it because you already made up your mind. In fact, if the person is initially asked to come at 7am, he/she might not show up (which is counterintuitive because the person showed up at 7am when the change is informed later)”

I came across these concepts from the book “The Idiot Brain” by Dean Burnett. The author tried to explain several concepts related to brain in a witty manner. Though the book is very good, it might be bit difficult for beginners in this field as the author summarizes several concepts (in 5-6 pages) where entire chapters are dedicated in other books such as “The Brain” by David Eagleman.

Suggested readings (where I came across some common concepts):

  1. The Brain: The Story of You by David Eagleman (Blog)
  2. Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker (Blog)
  3. The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat by Oliver Sacks
  4. Introduction To Psychology — Coursera course, David Bloom (Notes)
  5. MindField, a YouTube series by VSauce (Notes)
  6. Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman