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Disciplines > Negotiation > Negotiation tactics > Blackmail

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



Find something that the other person does not want to happen and say that it will happen if they do not do as you ask. You can note that you may make it happen or may not prevent it from happening.

This can include:

  • Things from their past that, if revealed, would embarrass them or otherwise cause them trouble.
  • Things you can do that will cause them problems.
  • Other harm that may befall them or their friends which you could act to reduce.
  • How you will feel if they act in particular ways.

A common form of blackmail is 'emotional blackmail', where the principle is to say 'If you don't do as I say then I will be upset'.


If you don't give me that book I'll tell your mother.

If you want to be considered for promotion, I'd suggest you do as I ask without all those questions.

I've found that you've been sleeping with another woman. It would be a shame if your wife found out. Now I'd like you to do a few things for me...


Blackmail is generally considered to be bad and socially unacceptable, yet it happens in subtle ways in many relationships and situations. It is easy for those who have some form of lever to use the power this gives in a direct and threatening way. Blackmail can also be subtle, with hints of negative consequences rather than direct threats.

Blackmail is different to bribery in that it is often negative, suggesting that the person will be harmed if they do not do as requested, as opposed to positive benefits they will gain that bribery suggests. Blackmail is a threat while bribery is an offer. Blackmail sometimes follows bribery, where once a person has accepted a bribe they are blackmailed with the threat that their acceptance might be revealed.

Emotional blackmail is common in relationships where 'Do as I say or I'll be angry' is used by parents, partners and others as a quick and harsh way to get what they want. Usually, a better longer term result is gained by more thoughtful and considerate approaches.

Blackmail is often an indication of a lack of skill in persuasion. Unable to change the other person's mind, the blackmailer resorts to this heavy-handed method. They typically get around the ethical dilemma by convincing themselves that this approach is 'necessary'.

See also


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