Camp Systems

How to Avoid Fight, Flight, and Compromise in Negotiation

Posted on February 18, 2019 by Camp Systems

There are many misconceptions about the Camp System of Negotiation. Some people never read past the introduction in our books and mistakenly assume we teach one of these approaches:

  • Adversarial or anti-collaborative.
  • End the negotiation when either party says no.
  • “Lose-lose” or “win-lose” because we don’t hold stock in “win-win.”

If you believe that the Camp System supports any of these – you’re wrong.

Jim Camp’s breakthrough in understanding negotiations occurred 40 years ago when he was in Hong Kong. In an old Oxford English Dictionary, Jim read:

Negotiation is the effort to bring about an agreement between two or more parties, with all parties having the right to veto.

Going deeper, these conditions must exist for a negotiation to take place:

  • There must be an effort to build agreements, and
  • All parties have the right to veto.

Therefore, if the efforts to build agreements are removed, or if someone’s right to veto is removed, then the event taking place is not a negotiation. Subsequently, we see problems like a financial loss, careers in jeopardy, or outright violence.

“When they don’t respect or exercise the right to say ‘no,’ they are not negotiating. They are engaging in manipulation, bullying, deception, or begging for a favor.”

Jim Camp

This sounds very academic, but simply stated, the three responses to a threat are:

  • Fight
  • Flight
  • Compromise

Let’s take a moment to understand how these three situations occur so we can try to avoid them in the future.


A fight occurs when one or more parties have been denied the right to veto, and they feel backed into a corner.

Let’s say there are two countries – Country A and Country B.

Country A  has a larger military and wants part of Country B’s territory. Country A occupies and takes over part of Country B. Country B was denied its right to veto the invasion.  

The agreement the countries reach is enforced through violence, or the threat of it.

Nelson Mandela said,  “Only free men can negotiate; prisoners cannot enter into contracts. Your freedom and mine cannot be separated.”

Freedom and the right to veto are inseparable, and to deny one is to deny the other. In the absence of the right to veto, conflicts and fights often take the place of negotiations.


Flight occurs when one party exercises its right to veto, without even attempting to build an agreement.

Flight is simply a refusal to engage. Often, we feel we have no “leverage” or “power.” We either assume the other party would never accept our proposal, or we’re not empowered nor confident enough to deliver a “No.”

This decision is usually based on our own limiting beliefs, assumptions, or lack of knowledge on how to proceed.


People often go into a negotiation assuming that compromise is necessary and a requirement. Wake up – it’s not.

While the win-win approach assumes that compromise is required, the Camp System rejects that.

We teach that presuming “compromise is required” creates false expectations – even before you begin to negotiate. Please don’t misunderstand, we know that compromise may sometimes occur, but it should not happen because your opponent expects it.

Compromise is the poison pill that predatory negotiators demand.  They’ll call you a bad partner if you refuse to give them what they want, but they seldom offer you something in return for honoring their request.

The alternative to compromise is to put in the effort and help your adversary discover their real pain and help them see a solution.

Would you like to always know where you are in a negotiation? And what next steps to take?

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