Go To The Balcony

Posted by Beetle B. on Wed 12 July 2017

Three Natural Reactions

We have 3 natural reactions:

  1. Striking back
  2. Giving in and yielding to pressure
  3. Cutting off the relationship

Don’t strike back.

Don’t give in or yield to pressure. If they appear to have an uncontrollable tantrum, consider whether they have tantrums in front of their boss. If not, it is an act!

Do not appease someone to get them off your back. They will keep coming back - they know the strategy works.

Don’t break off the relationship unless as a last resort.

Go To The Balcony

Distance yourself from your impulses. Pretend you’re on a balcony looking down at the stage where you are.

In a negotiation, go to the balcony often and review your goals. Don’t get knocked off from the balcony.

Name The Game

Instead of reacting, name the tactic the other side is using (you do not need to call it out openly). Examples are below.


A refusal to change position. Claiming they have no flexibility/authority to change terms. Invoking company policy. Invoking a prior commitment/pledge. Phrases like “We’ll get back to you” or “Take it or lose it”.


Threats, attacking your proposal or credibility, status or authority. Insults, bullying, etc.


False data, claim of authority where none. Nibbling.


If you recognize a stonewall, you’ll realize they are more flexible than they appear. Recognizing an attack will make you less afraid, etc.

Know your hot buttons, and prepare against them (e.g. being called selfish, disorganized, etc).

If your heart pounds, stomach churns, or have any other physical symptom, you should go to the balcony.

Buy Time To Think

After naming the game, you need to find time to go to the balcony.

Pause and Say Nothing

You can pause in the middle of a negotiation and say nothing.

The other side may calm down (not your goal, but it is a bonus). Or they may feel uncomfortable. They may respond more reasonably.

But they may also escalate. Lean back, fold arms, and let the screams wash over you. Realize he is doing it to get it out of his system.

A common labor negotiation rule: Only one person at a time is allowed to vent frustration and anger.

Don’t suppress your feelings - that is not the goal. You will feel angry, upset, etc. Just don’t let it come to the surface as an unhelpful action.

Rewind The Tape

After the pause, repeat or summarize what the other person said and review the situation up to the current point. If being overloaded with information, say “TMI. Let’s back up” and go over it in detail.

Take notes while you speak. Useful to say “Hold on - back up. What did you say at…?”

Don’t be scared to say “I’m sorry, I don’t follow” Either in reality or appear a little obtuse. Appearing obtuse is an advantage, not a sign of weakness! Even saying “I don’t understand why you didn’t bring it up before” helps.

Take A Time Out

Take a break. Don’t worry about it appearing as if you are weak. Make a seemingly legitimate excuse (prepare one in advance).

Common excuse: Call a caucus with your team. You have new information they need to know.

If you cannot leave the room, tell a story or a joke to divert the conversation.

Don’t Make Important Decisions On The Spot

Never make a crucial decision on the spot! Go to the balcony and make it there!

If they have a document for you to sign, say you need to consult a lawyer. Or say “You put a lot of time drafting this, right? Then I’ll do it justice by studying it carefully.”

If they set a deadline, test it by adjourning the meeting.

Don’t Get Mad or Even

Do not try to control the other person’s behavior. Focus on your own. Use the balcony time to keep your eye on the prize.