How To Make A Counter-Proposal?



When responding to any counter-proposal, you need to make sure you don’t let yourself get sucked into the sequential move game. In a sequential move game with “evenly” matched players, as a second mover, you can only tie or lose. Are you interested in a more complicated game of tick tack toe?


Whether responding using text communication or verbally, there are 3 things you always want to keep top of mind.

  • Delay to save time
  • If you’re explaining, you are losing
  • Every interaction is an opportunity to educate yourself


Delay to Save Time

The appeal of the phrase above is based on your instinctive reaction to it. Saving time is always a good idea and delaying to do so sounds counterintuitive enough to be interesting. Delaying to save time refers to the strategic use of tactical empathy. You know that putting your counterpart in the right frame of mind to be collaborative and willing to share information is most useful. What Black Swan proposes is tactical empathy is the quickest way to get there. It will just “feel” like you are taking a long way around because you aren’t leading with information that matters to your side.


If You're Explaining, You Are Losing

You want the other side to feel compelled to respond to you. You don’t want them responding because they feel they must, just falling into the social norm of "they said something, so I should speak now." Entering the interaction with the intention of verbalizing positives or negatives that will make them want to add their two cents is a good strategy. It is what builds trust, and consequently, this road feels like beating around the bush to those who don’t spend much time on this road. People often think "quick to trust, quick to agree." Even if that's so, explaining is a lousy approach. Your explanation could be creating a perfect foundation for them to disagree with you.


Don’t be afraid to use silence to your benefit. One beautiful thing about silence and fundamental human nature is the power of the unspoken word. You obviously can’t utilize that power by speaking. Too much silence can be dangerous in text communication. Weeks on end holding out to respond can be detrimental to relationship quality across the board. In person, you basically can’t be quite enough. It boils down to whether you can will yourself to stay silent, or you use silence as a strategic pause during a conversation. For example, not stepping on your label by explaining it. “It seems like you put a lot of effort into this" followed by silence – as opposed to “It seems like you put a lot of work into this because/and/but/etc...”


Every Interaction Is An Opportunity To Educate Yourself

You should consider it a failure if you have a conversation with a counterpart and have no new information when you complete the interaction. If you are worried about someone being unreasonable or going in with the intention of hoping he or she gets the picture this time, you are walking into the trap of ignorance. If the other side has a proposal, it is probably for a reason. Explaining how you have a better idea is a poor way to start that interaction. Simply saying – “You put a lot of thought into this” and using an effective pause is a better start. If the other side thinks you’re paying attention, they will tell you things you need to hear. Remember, needing and wanting is not the same thing.


When making a counter-proposal, you cannot blindly respond to content and hope for the best. You need to know what you are getting yourself into first. What has gone unsaid that affects how they view doing business with you? Oddly enough, verbalizing those issues is probably the best place to start. Be careful not to disguise the things you hope they say yes to as a label, such as “it seems like you are interested.” If they haven’t agreed, a more appropriate verbalization is, “there seems to be something in the way that you don’t feel comfortable sharing.”