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Invoke Rules


Disciplines > Negotiation > Negotiation tactics > Invoke Rules

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



Invoke rules that require certain behavior, by you or by them.

Rules can be any requirement that points to how a person should act. This includes:

  • How: Procedures for negotiating, deciding and reaching agreement.
  • What: Things that are allowed or required as items for exchange.

Sources of rules that may be applied includes:

  • National laws.
  • Industry standards.
  • Company policies (yours or theirs).
  • Social norms (politeness, ethics, etc.)

When invoking standards, it can help avoid resistance if they are brought up incrementally.

If they deny that the rules exist or otherwise try to ignore them, you can threaten to escalate to the rule-makers, such as the CEO of their company.


Sorry, I couldn't do that without involving our finance people. They have to be involved in all changes to payments. Shall I get them in tomorrow?

Does it conform to ISO1347? Our customers will require this.

Is it your policy to sell sub-standard goods? Does your company have service standards? What do they say about customer satisfaction? Is it your first priority? Yes? So why are you acting as if it is a low priority?


Using rules is a powerful method as it provides an external source for required behavior that you can use to excuse what you 'must' do or require from them.

Your rules

When you use rules that apply to you, you constrain what you can do by saying you are not allowed to do things or must follow certain procedures. When negotiating for a company or client, then you can be regulated by their requirements. When negotiating for yourself, you can still reference a partner or use social norms or national laws.

For example:

  • Not engaging in bribery or other inducements.
  • Have to check with others before agreeing.
  • Payment must be up-front or by a certain method.
  • Need to check wording of contract with lawyer.
  • Cannot give discount beyond certain level.

Their rules

It is surprising how often people do not know the rules that govern them, and so easily stray outside the boundaries of what is strictly permissible. If you can learn their policies and know other rules, then you have a powerful tool with which to influence them.

Using their rules is particularly powerful in everyday situations where you are an individual dealing with a company. The basic principle is to invoke their company policies that they are not following. This is quite common. People who set up policies are often detached from the front line and tend to be rather idealistic, leading to customer policies that strongly favor customers. Then CEOs sign the rules, which means failure to comply with the rules is a PR disaster-in-waiting for the CEO.

See also

Values, Lawyer


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