Brinkmanship Defined

Brinkmanship: A High-Stakes Negotiating Technique

In the world of negotiations, there are various strategies and techniques employed to achieve favorable outcomes. One such technique is brinkmanship, a high-stakes approach where one party aggressively pursues a set of terms, leaving the other party with no choice but to either agree or disengage. This article will delve into the concept of brinkmanship, its key characteristics, and its potential benefits and drawbacks.

Understanding Brinkmanship

Brinkmanship is a strategy that involves pushing negotiations to the brink of failure in order to gain an advantage. It is often employed when one party believes they hold a stronger position or has more leverage over the other. By adopting an aggressive stance and making extreme demands, the party using brinkmanship aims to force the other party into a corner, leaving them with limited options.

Key Characteristics of Brinkmanship

1. Aggressive Pursuit: Brinkmanship involves an assertive and forceful pursuit of one’s objectives. The party using this technique is willing to take risks and make bold moves to achieve their desired outcome.

2. Extreme Demands: Brinkmanship often entails making unreasonable or extreme demands that may initially seem unacceptable to the other party. This approach aims to create a sense of urgency and pressure, forcing the other party to reconsider their position.

3. Limited Timeframe: Brinkmanship relies on imposing strict deadlines or time constraints on negotiations. By creating a sense of urgency, the party using this technique aims to limit the other party’s ability to explore alternative options or seek additional concessions.

Benefits of Brinkmanship

1. Increased Leverage: Brinkmanship can provide the party employing it with increased leverage during negotiations. By pushing the boundaries and making extreme demands, they may be able to extract more favorable terms or concessions from the other party.

2. Demonstrating Resolve: Brinkmanship can be an effective way to demonstrate one’s determination and commitment to achieving their objectives. This display of resolve can sometimes lead the other party to reassess their own position and make concessions to avoid a breakdown in negotiations.

3. Speeding up the Process: By imposing strict deadlines and time constraints, brinkmanship can expedite the negotiation process. This can be advantageous in situations where time is of the essence or when a quick resolution is desired.

Drawbacks of Brinkmanship

1. Damaged Relationships: Brinkmanship can strain relationships between negotiating parties. The aggressive and confrontational nature of this technique may lead to resentment and distrust, making it harder to reach mutually beneficial agreements in the future.

2. Potential for Failure: The high-stakes nature of brinkmanship means that negotiations can easily collapse if the other party refuses to yield to extreme demands. This can result in a breakdown of communication and a failure to reach any agreement.

3. Reputation Damage: Employing brinkmanship as a negotiation strategy can damage a party’s reputation. Being seen as overly aggressive or unreasonable may make it difficult to establish trust and credibility in future negotiations.


Brinkmanship is a high-stakes negotiation technique that involves aggressively pursuing a set of terms to force the other party into a corner. While it can provide increased leverage and expedite the negotiation process, it also carries the risk of damaging relationships and reputations, as well as potential failure. Understanding the key characteristics and potential benefits and drawbacks of brinkmanship is crucial for negotiators seeking to employ this strategy effectively.

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