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Good Guy/Bad Guy


Disciplines > Negotiation > Negotiation tactics > Good Guy/Bad Guy

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



One person acts in an aggressive and pushy way, making unreasonable demands and requiring compliance.

The other person then acts in a kind and friendly way, asking nicely -- and getting compliance.

The good guy (or gal, of course) may apologize for the bad guy, or plead for compliance because the bad guy is being horrible to the good guy too.

You can even do it as one person: be unpleasant and then apologize (you are under such stress) and ask nicely for what you want.


A husband and wife go out to buy some hi-fi speakers. He acts in an aggressive and dominant way, complaining about the price and the sales person's 'condescending' manner. She takes the sales person aside and apologizes for her husband and whispers a price at which she thinks he will buy.

A senior manager makes a presentation in an unpleasant and aggressive way, demanding that tough goals are met. A liked line manager meets with her people afterwards and says that if the goals are not met then she will be punished.


This is a classic implementation of the hurt and rescue principle, which is a core element of many persuasion methods. The bad guy acts to cause discomfort and tension, after which the good guy offers escape and closure.

This is often seen on TV in the good cop, bad cop routine that is often seen in police dramas. It can also be a subconscious pattern for parents, where one parent tries to impose discipline by demanding compliance after which the other seems to get it easily by gentle request.

What the good guy says often gives the target person an excuse to comply, allowing them to rationalize their action and retain dignity. Sometimes the person complies with the good guy as an act of revenge to 'teach the bad guy manners'.

Gender can make a difference here. While each can play either role, it plays to tendencies and stereotypes if the controlling 'bad guy' is a man and the nurturing 'good guy' is a woman.

See also

Good Cop, Bad Cop, Hurt and Rescue principle, The Drama Triangle

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