In the thriller ‘Silence of The Lamb’, Clarie Starling, a top student at the FBI’s training academy received a special assignment. She was in charge of a vicious murder case in which young female victims had their skins removed from their bodies. Clarice was instructed to interview Dr. Lecter, a brilliant psychiatrist who was also a violent psychopath. The FBI believed that Dr. Lecter may have insight into the case and would be able to provide useful information. In the two minute prison scene, Dr. Lecter indeed knew something about the case but his information comes with a price. He wanted to be imprisoned in a more comfortable house with larger freedom of more free space. More important, he wanted Clarie to unfold her past and forcing her to reveal her innermost traumas.
In the negotiation context it contains important information about the negotiator’s power and status that affects the strategies that detector Clarie and Dr. Lecter favor. During the conversation, Dr. Lecter made more extreme offers and gave fewer concessions that attempted to claim a greater share of the resources than Clarie did. All these individual tactics such as argumentation, threats, and extreme opening offers are typical of high-power negotiators (Lewicki, Barry, & Saunders, 2010). These strategies can play a key role in value creation because high-power individuals are more attuned to rewards than are low-power negotiators (Anderson & Berdahl, 2002). Clarie knew that Dr. Lecter could exit negotiations easily; the key to value creation was to preserve the relationship by complying with his offers. Most importantly, Clarie had no alternatives; Dr. Lecter was the only source of providing useful information.
In addition, communicating a threat is also an effective way to elicit concessions in negotiation (Sinaceur & Neale, 2005). As Dr. Lecter delivered a threat (i.e. not being helpful) in a cool, non-emotional way did result from Clarie careful consideration of her current situations and options. Communicating threats are associated with a negotiator being perceived as confident and in control (Friedland, 1976). That is the reason why Clarie was willing to put herself in a position of vulnerability when she could least afford to be weak in front of Dr. Lecter. This is a very nice clip demonstrates the effectiveness of high-power status and the use of threats to gain control over another party in a negotiation.
Anderson, C., & Berdahl, J. (2002). The experience of power: Examining the effects of power on approach and inhibition tendencies. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83, 1362-1377.
Friedland, N. (1976). Social influences via threats. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 12, 552-563.
Lewicki, R., Barry, B., & Saunders, D. (2010). Negotiation (6th ed). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Sinaceur, M., & Neale, M. A. (2005). Not all threats are created equal: How implicitness and timing affect the effectiveness of threats in negotiations. Group Decision and Negotiation, 14, 63-85.