4 super effective negotiation tactics from film and TV

“Life imitates art far more than art imitates life,” said Oscar Wilde. And, in the case of powerful negotiation scenes from film and TV, these words often ring true. So why not take a cue from fictional negotiation tactics to inspire your next real-life negotiation scenario?

Becoming a better negotiator is not only about reading books and applying practical tips. It’s also about observing the subtle dynamics of negotiation in action. How do you react if the other party won’t budge? What do you do if you feel like you’re running out of time but are still far from reaching a consensus?

Movie and TV scenes allow you to see all sorts of deal-making situations play out — complete with the twists and turns that often apply to interactions in real life. Because when you’re in the heat of the moment and your conversation about a promotion is not going according to plan, it can be difficult to remember everything you’ve read about how to negotiate effectively.

Check out these four super effective negotiation tactics inspired by film and TV. Your coworkers, clients or boss won’t know what hit them once you start bargaining like the Wolf of Wall Street. The best part? It’s kind of more fun to learn that way.

Use the power of no

“Never say no to a hostage-taker, It’s in the manual.” Samuel L. Jackson’s character Danny Roman uttered those words in The Negotiator — and despite the fact a meeting about your salary probably won’t take the form of an intense hostage situation, he’s onto something.

Here’s the kicker: You don’t want to be the one saying no. But you do want to ask a no-oriented question to whoever you’re negotiating with. Chris Voss, former FBI negotiator and author of “Never Split The Difference,” whose experiences have mirrored the movies — uses this method on a regular basis.

Ask a question along the lines of “Are you against…?” or “Would it be a ridiculous idea…?” to lead your interlocutor to say no in a way that supports your most favorable outcome.

Embracing the awkward silence

In an episode of the comedy show 30 Rock, Sherri, a grumpy babysitter, gets double the pay for half the work by embracing an awkward moment of silence. Jack Donaghy, a character played by Alec Baldwin, starts their conversation off with confidence and charm.

But when it’s Sherri’s turn to talk and she stays completely silent, Jack starts to fumble — the beginning of the end when it comes to staying in a strong position while making a deal.

This tactic is embraced by the likes of Tim Cook and Jeff Bezos, especially when faced with a challenging question. It can be super awkward to hold your tongue, but it does work wonders.

Sticking to your guns

Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance in Nightcrawler is a masterclass in the art of negotiating effectively. His character, Lou, is a stringer who approaches Nina, a TV news manager, to sell her an exclusive video. Nina starts off by refusing his asking price.

Instead of backing down and accepting her counteroffer, Lou doubles down on mentioning reasons why the video would be of high value to Nina. Not only does he not try to meet in the middle, but he also starts to make bigger demands.

Moral of the story? Believe in what you have to offer and stick to your guns so much you passionately showcase the value you bring to the table and even ask for more if the other party attempts to lower the offer. Bold — but effective when well-executed.

Do your research

In The Wolf of Wall Street, Leonardo DiCaprio’s character Jordan Belfort (the real-life Jordan is now an author and motivational speaker who would probably still approve of this tip) has a profound understanding of his billionaire clients and does his research before approaching prospective leads.

It’s all about coming up with irresistible proposals. What makes an offer juicy? Addressing some of the person’s pain points and highlighting how you are the solution to them.

In a scene from the movie, Jordan asks one of his employees to sell him a pen on the spot. He does so to teach him that, in order to sell an idea, you have to persuade your interlocutor that they need and want it. You won’t be able to do that well — especially not on the spot — without truly understanding who you’re negotiating with and what’s at stake.