It’s time to wake up to the value of your reputation

“If you don’t comply with what we want, we’ll tell your…” This tactic, designed to cause reputational harm, has been used in negotiations since time began. It’s so hard-wired into our DNA, even children routinely use it: “I’m going to tell on you! So there!”

However, the precise methods of this widely-used tactic change constantly. Not so long ago, gentlemen would protect their or their family’s reputation by taking part in deadly duels. After duels were banned, the courts took over and challenged the press when they spread malicious rumours – or even reported the truth!

Nowadays, anyone can pop up on social media or a chat show and say whatever they like, safe in the knowledge they won’t have to fight a duel or stand up in court. Because, if the person making the allegation can’t be identified, or they made it in a different jurisdiction, they can’t be challenged.

In the negotiations we undertake for our clients, reputation is often the element both sides value the least when they’re seeking agreement. Yet, it’s the one that’s most open to threat.

This is because it’s so hard to prove what the effect of a campaign to tarnish their reputation will be. Mostly the threat just pisses people off and they turn away from doing a voluntary deal. Remember how you hardened your battle lines when your ghastly little brother or sister said they were going to tell on you?

But, if the evidence shows that your opponent will stoop to anything, even lying, to get their way, then you have no choice but to take them on and to tell them so in the most forceful terms. Nothing deters a bully more than being stood up to.

And what if the other side has been getting away with systemic failures, malpractice or breaches of professional guidelines? In that case, you may have no alternative than to warn others that they could lose their home, pension or good name if they do business with these charlatans.

Charlatans who will nonetheless be influenced by the strength of numbers against them – because reputation matters to us all.

So, should you threaten them with going public or call them out before you negotiate?

It’s a good question and one we can advise you on when you take #TheMootRoute.

Moot Hill dispute resolution Leicestershire