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Secrets of Power Negotiating by Roger Dawson

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Chapter 43Ultimatums

Ultimatums are very high-profile statements that tend to strike fear into inexperienced negotiators. Terrorists are holding a plane full of hostages and tell negotiators that unless their demands are met, they will start shooting hostages at noon on the following day. Jimmy Carter used to say that the worst nightmare of his presidency was that the Iranians who had taken the hostages in the embassy in Tehran would start shooting them one at a time until he met their demands. An ultimatum is a powerful pressure point, but it has one major flaw as a gambit: If you say that you are going to shoot the first hostage at noon tomorrow, what had you better be prepared to do at noon tomorrow? Right. Shoot the first hostage. Because ...

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