Weakness as Strength: The Use and Misuse of a “My Hands Are Tied” Ploy in Bargaining


Requests for reprints should be sent to Nehemia Friedland, Department of Psychology, Tel-Aviv University, Ramat Aviv 66978, Israel.


This study was designed to evaluate empirically the notion that in bargaining weakness can be turned into strength. Subjects participated in simulated labor-management negotiations. The results indicate that a “my hands are tied” ploy is effective in eliciting concessions when used to induce an adversary to accept a settlement which is included in the bargaining range. In contrast, the use of the ploy in an effort to settle negotiations outside the bargaining range enhanced the adversary's intransigence. The implications of the differential effects of a “my hands are tied” ploy for the process of negotiations are discussed.