Let’s say you’re car shopping and find one you like.  You inquire about the price and the salesman says “$40,000”.

That’s more than you want to pay, and you say so.  The salesman hems and haws for awhile and then says “$35,000”.  That’s still more than you want to pay, so he rolls his eyes and mumbles, “Let me go talk to my manager.”

When he comes back, he says, “Here’s what I can do.  I can’t go below $35,000 but I’ll throw in the leather interior and the stereo system upgrade.  That’s $5,000 worth of options I’m giving you for free.”

You’re still reticent, so he says something like, “You drive a hard bargain.”  Then in a conspiratorial whisper he adds, “My manager is gonna kill me, but I’ll go $32,500, plus the free upgrades.  Do we have a deal?”

You buy the car and drive off convinced you’ve put one over on the salesman.  What you don’t realize is that he steered you to it.  The dealership only needed to make $25,000 on that car, so he’s turned a nice profit.  Sure, you got the leather and the stereo, but he had already factored the costs of those into his initial ask. So even though he appeared to come down in price and give away extras, nothing cut into his profit.

That story can be found in any “Sales and Negotiation 101” book. Trumpspeak leans heavily on this tactic. His opening gambit is an off-the-charts demand. When the public expresses disbelief and outrage, he appears to back down and shifts focus to less outrageous aspects.  Because the initial ask was apparently defeated, the public feels it’s gained a victory, but all that’s happened is a fallback to what he really wanted in the first place.

There are going to be lots of news stories that unfold along these lines. Don’t fall for the first ask, and don’t invest all your energy fighting it every time, or you’ll burn out. Take a step back and assess how the story might play out, and how long it might take before the effects are tangible. As I mentioned in my first post, focus on the stone, not the ripples it causes.  Forget the leather interior.  Seek out the real deal behind the pitch and negotiate that to where you want it to be.