Was Pablo Escobar the best negotiator?

“Plata o Plomo” (money or bullet) is probably the one negotiation concept that made Pablo the most famous narco trafficker. In case you didn’t know, Pablo Escabor used to tell people he wanted to influence/coerce that they had a choice: Plata o plomo. I’ll explain why, but first I need to make a few things clear:  Yes, I am very interested in organized crime. No, I do not condone violence in any way.  I do, however, believe there is something to learn from almost any situation, and difficult situations are one of the fastest ways to learn.

So why is “plata o plomo” such a powerful phrase? Let’s explore it:

  • Plomo (bullet): Threatening to put a bullet in someone is definitely a powerful way to coerce, but not powerful enough for people who already put their life on the line for what they believe in e.g. some people in the army, and some police officers.
  • Plato (money): Offering money to force people to act, works for people who value money.  A lot of people fall into this category, but not everybody. Some people, especially in powerful positions may not value money enough to commit crimes – e.g. high-ranking politicians, businessmen or celebrities.

Then, the cherry on the cake: Pablo Escobar was giving people a choice.  This, in a strange way, puts them in control. Once you’re in control and you make your decision, you are more likely to own it and be committed to it.  Even if the choice was not really a choice.

I call this negotiation tactic “contrasting”.  It is a simple yet impactful method. You compare 2 opposing things. One terrible and one great. The bad one triggers the most powerful emotional hot button in people: The fear of losing something they already have.  The great one gives them a way out. And because they can decide the way out, it enables people to save face and own their decision.

This tactic is not only for people with a lot of power. Contrast anything in the right way and it will allow people to review a situation they thought they knew from a different perspective. Use it, abuse it and get what you deserve.