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Off the Record


Disciplines > Negotiation > Negotiation tactics > Off the Record

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



Ask if you can talk 'off the record' then tell them something that appears to be new information for them. You can also ask them about something that they may be holding back.

Another method is simply to add 'off the record' in the middle of a conversation and then continue with what you want to say, assuming that the other person will not repeat what you tell them.

You can even ask for an entire 'off the record' meeting where you might for example exchange information or give a presentation about the overall business context. The negotiation meetings are then held separately to these.

Variations of 'off the record' include:

  • 'As an aside...'
  • 'Confidentially...'
  • 'Don't tell anyone, but...'
  • 'Truthfully,...'

Do not tell them anything that would cause you a problem if they brought it up later.


Strictly off the record, is Michael the only person who can approve this?

Confidentially, I'm not happy with it myself, but I still have to go through with it.

Let's go and have a cup of coffee. I want to give you some background information that may help.


Of course nothing is really off the record, and in many negotiations you can never fully trust the other party. However, it can be very useful. When you place something off the record, for example, you imply that you are trusting them and, by reciprocation, they should trust you. This also puts them in an awkward position, where they are socially obliged to you not to repeat things, yet still are obliged to their employer or other associates. If they accept your obligation, you will have moved them towards you, and they may hence be more open to other suggestions.

Going off the record is also useful when things are getting stuck in the negotiation and a bit of honesty can help get things back into motion. By declaring that you are being truthful or open, you make what you say next more credible and also suggest you are willing to give as well as take.

Another variant of 'off the record' is to declare 'Chatham House Rules'. This is an English expression meaning that 'what is said in the room, stays in the room'. In other words, everyone is strictly bound not to reveal to anybody else what is said.

See also

Trust, Exchange principle, Obligation principle


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