What Cuba Gooding’s Character in “Jerry Maguire” Can Teach You About Negotiation

Last week I asked my Twitter network for movie clip ideas for a Negotiation class I teach for a university. I wanted to find movie clips to strategically and perfectly illustrate my 3 Golden Rules for Negotiation. My network came through big-time with more than a dozen fascinating clips. After reviewing each of the clips, I found 3 perfect clips to teach my students to go in with leverage, know your BATNA, and to know when negotiation is not an option. My students laughed and learned. Here’s what I shared with them.

  1.  Go in with leverage

Jerry Maguire “Show Me the Money”

I used this clip to illustrate to my students the importance of leverage in negotiation.

In the movie, Cuba Gooding’s character, a wide-receiver about to become a free agent, wanted one thing: to make serious cash. And he made sure his agent was crystal clear on his goal by way of his famous line, “Show me the money!” His leverage came from clarity about his purpose and by bringing value to the table.

Gooding’s character stepped up his game by improving his attitude and taking his performance from mediocre to spectacular. This leverage paid off big time: He obtained a four-year, $11.2 million contract-up from a previous three-year, $1.7 million offer. By improving leverage, Gooding’s character got Jerry Maguire, the agent, to show him the money. Enjoy this clip from one of my favorite movies. (Warning: explicit language)


2. Know your BATNA

Firefly “The Negotiator”

One of the most important things for any negotiator to understand is their BATNA: Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement. BATNA is the course of action that will be taken by a party if the current negotiations fail and agreement cannot be reached.

You have power when you have a walk-away alternative.

When my husband and I were negotiating the price of our current home, we agreed, before meeting with the realtor, that we would offer no more than “X” amount. If the seller couldn’t meet us where we were, we were going to walk away from the deal and seriously pursue another fabulous home just 3 miles away. That’s an example of a BATNA…it was a real, viable option for us that didn’t require agreement from the realtor. We had power because we had a real walk-away alternative.

Be careful not to just walk away without doing your research because the consequences could be serious as shown in “The Negotiator” scene here:


3. Know when negotiation is not an option

The Fifth Element “Send a Negotiator”

My husband and I actually watched this movie on cable last weekend. I used the “Send a Negotiator” scene to demonstrate that there are times when you don’t want to negotiate.

Remember Kenny Rogers’ song “The Gambler?” There’s pure wisdom in these lyrics:

You gotta know when to hold ‘em,

know when to fold ‘em,

know when to walk away, and

know when to run.

In negotiation, you have to know how to set limits, know when to walk away and know when it’s just not in your best interests to negotiate. In the “Send a Negotiator” clip below, Bruce Willis’ character demonstrates the Golden Rule, knowing when negotiating is Not an option. Take a look.