Deciding what not to disclose in a negotiation is often a matter of personal judgment. Sometimes, there are legal obligations as to what you must disclose and in particular scenarios, you must act in good faith. This may entail disclosing information even if it damages your case.
In Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In, Ury and Patton advise negotiators to understand what their best alternative to a negotiated agreement might be. So, if negotiations fail, you can proceed with litigation because you have a very strong legal case, then you should keep this information to yourself in order to feel more confident and calm during the negotiation.
However, it is very likely that the opposing party already knows and understands your BATNA because they too have considered your position in detail. In some situations, it might be appropriate to disclose it in order to encourage a settlement or to build trust.
What you should definitely not disclose
Any information which may jeopardise your professional integrity or breach the law (such as confidential or information which is subject to an injunction) should not be disclosed. This is especially true if the information disclosed could be relied on to form the basis of a contract.
Remember, your reputation for acting with integrity should not be detrimentally affected by this negotiation.
You should also be careful not to disclose information if you are unsure whether it is true or not. This could potentially result in legal consequences, not to mention compromising your professional reputation.
Some negotiators may use misleading or questionable tactics that imply a particular preference, wish or interest. This may also exert pressure on the parties which may lead to agreeing to a settle under this pretext. Bluffing, selective disclosure and pretending to be in a hurry are methods of exerting influence. Personal judgment should be used to assess whether these are appropriate. If they are likely to cross any legal lines, caution and legal advice could be necessary.
- Never, ever lie. Even if you are tempted to, being found out will destroy trust, integrity and possibly your reputation.
- If you are unsure whether information is true or accurate, try and find out whether it is before you disclose it. If you are unable to find out, make sure that you disclose it only with a warning that the information has not been verified. For example, if you are selling a piece of land because you suspect it may be in an area which is likely to gain value in the next few years, you should also state clearly that this is only an opinion and that the purchaser should make their own enquiries about this.
- Keep in mind that there may be legal consequences for disclosing inappropriate information. It could also result in a loss of trust and integrity which could cost you your professional reputation and relationships.
- The key to all of this is preparation and research!
Do you agree? Let me know your thoughts !
 Kelley Reardon, Kathleen, The Skilled Negotiator, Mastering the Language of Engagement, San Francisco, Jossey-Bass, 2004 p.93