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Coming Clean


Disciplines > Negotiation > Negotiation tactics > Coming Clean

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



Be explicit about the fact that you are going to be honest, particularly in a situation where they may suspect you may not be fully truthful.

You can do this genuinely, when it seems that honesty is the best policy. This is particularly used when the relationship is important on an ongoing basis, and where trust is a critical issue.

This can also be done deceptively, pretending to be fully honest when you are not telling the whole truth (or even being untruthful). Coming clean can also used as a distraction by telling the truth in one area in order to keep attention away from somewhere else.

Typical words for coming clean include:

  • 'I have to be honest...'
  • 'Genuinely...'
  • 'Sincerely...'
  • 'I shouldn't say this, but...'
  • 'I think you need to know...'


I've got to be honest here, I don't know if we can afford it.

Look, I shouldn't really be saying this, but this isn't the best deal you can get.

I want to be truthful with you. You deserve it.


In negotiations, honesty and the whole truth are not always to be found. If you offer to be fully honest, and the other party accepts this, then they will be more trusting and accept many other things that you say. They are also more likely to be fully honest with you too.

The risk in offering full disclosure is that if they discover that you are not wholly truthful, or even that they suspect you are being deceptive, then they will trust you even less, and may seek ways to punish your deceit. This strong backfire effect makes this method particularly hazardous. On the other hand, a successful use of 'coming clean', whether genuine or deceptive, can have a very significant benefit.

Another danger with this method, is that if you are fully honest, then they will either be put off by the things you tell them, or perhaps even take advantage of your honesty. You hence need to be careful in assessing whether they will be accepting and honest in return, or otherwise use your honesty against you.

See also

Values, Cards on the Table


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