Negotiation Tactic – The Flinch

May 18, 2014
The flinch is all about communicating pain and discomfort.


You know the flinch!  People do it all the time, kids are masters at it.    When a kid wants something, a flinch could turn into a tantrum.   Say like wanting a piece of candy in the check out line at a store.   The child starts with a whine that escalates into a writhing spasm on the floor….and often people acquiesce and give them what they want.

As adults in a professional setting we can’t throw tantrums.  But we can flinch, and as a negotiation tactic, it is a wonderful tool.      And you need to know how to use it, deliver it, and how to deflect it when used on you.

The basic concept is when a value proposition is rendered by someone for your consideration, you flinch as if struck by a bolt of lightning.     Since the vast majority of people have empathy for others,  the proposer may quickly relent or try to ease your pain.  Tony Robbins talks a lot about pain avoidance as a tool to create success and habit change.     People don’t like pain and will do anything to avoid it, even empathetic pain.

The flinch can be outrageous and bombastic, such as waiving arms, shrieking, trembling hands, stomping a foot, etc…or it can be subtle, perhaps a sigh, eye roll, tsking, or shaking of your head.     Whatever physical or verbal signs you use, and it could depend on the situation and surrounding, the flinch works.    Try it out.

I do it instinctively now.    I was once getting a part for my dryer at the direction of a friend who owned a laundry.    I was going to buy a new dryer, but my friend said for a $15 kit, I could repair my dryer.    So off to the dryer part store I went.    I was at the counter and asked for the appropriate kit, and the store clerk retrieved it and said it was $35.    I exclaimed, I guess a tad loudly and with a flinch, $35???!!!    He immediately panicked and said “why, how much did you think it was?”.   I told him $15.  He concernedly asked where did I see that price.   I didn’t want to say “my friend told me”, so I said “the internet, I guess” He went running to his computer and proceeded to look for a matching price online.     Even after I told him $35 was fine (I needed to get home and bail out my wife with two babies creating multiple loads of laundry…hourly) he insisted on doing more research.    He finally said he found a site that had a price of $23 and could match it.

The savings wasn’t very exciting, but watching the psychology of the effect of a simple flinch was.  And trust me the flinch works in a professional setting as well.    You need to learn how to deliver it professionally, effectively and sincerely.      And it doesn’t have to be disingenuous.    If you are uncomfortable with a proposition or offer, you just need to verbally and physically communicate that to the person delivering the offer via a flinch.

The flinch is all about communicating pain and discomfort.

The flinch is all about communicating pain and discomfort.

 If the flinch is used on you, you should react accordingly.    Either the subject is really pained by your offer, or they are feigning to be, either way it indicates you have some work to do.    You could also flinch back.  And if the flinching escalates back and forth…I think that is called an argument.   Again, an indication you have some work to do.  

It’s most effective to flinch in person, but you can do it on the phone, or even in writing.    Be careful of email/text flinching as it is very difficult to communicate flinches in writing  and maintain a professional or nonthreatening tone.

Remember, using negotiation tactics takes practice.    So try some flinching on some of your next transactions.   Also watch for others using the tactic on you.     Happy deal making!

Andy Cagnetta owns and operates Transworld Business Advisors.  He joined the company as a sales associate and later purchased it. Transworld is an international franchise business and franchise brokerage, with thousands of businesses for sale and franchisees in the United States and Internationally.






1 Comment

  • Reply John Primeau May 19, 2014 at 9:55 pm

    Great article Andy. I used the “flinch” today. I was shopping for something and asked the salesman for a specific product. He told me they didn’t have exactly what I wanted and was pushing an alternative which is harder for them to sell. I flinched non-verbally and casually looked towards the front door. The salesman said he wanted to double check something and (surprise) found exactly what I was looking for.

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