“North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un has banned the country’s citizens from using sarcasm in their everyday conversations.

Satire directed towards the regime and even indirect criticisms of leadership will not be forgiven, sources in the North have said.

Mass meetings organized by central government authorities have been used to issue the warnings.”

Read the full article from Daily Mail.

In keeping with his long-standing record of issuing threats, demands, and edicts, North Korea’s Supreme Leader remained true to form by employing one of his favorite negotiation tactics, the ever-popular TIOLI (“Take It Or Leave It”).

While, in Kim’s case, the tactic is very probably an absolute ultimatum, the vast majority of times its used in business is because it’s just that – a tactic. The results of challenging that tactic can often be extremely beneficial (except, perhaps, to the good citizens of North Korea). Often, Take It Or Leave It is a way to challenge the other side’s position or commitment, and it’s one of the most common tactics out there.

When asked during the SPASigma White Belt seminar, “How many of you use Take It Or Leave It in your business?”, a few attendees will grudgingly raise their hands, but the reality is that we all use this tactic every single day. Statements or phrases like, “That’s the best I can do”, or “I’m sorry, my hands are tied,” or the ever-popular BAFO (Best And Final Offer) are all different ways of saying “take it or leave it.”

Of course, the exact phrase itself isn’t generally used because it’s inflammatory. For example, if you went into a hardware store and asked a clerk what the price was for a particular screwdriver, and the response was, “It’s $14.95. Take it or leave it!” – your reaction would probably be, “Fine, I’ll LEAVE it.” You might even go to a competitor’s hardware store and buy the same type of screwdriver, and even pay a little more, because the clerk offended you. But, if the clerk had simply replied, “It’s $14.95” – they’re saying “take it or leave it” without using the words.


Well, obviously, not always, especially under a totalitarian regime. But what about the TIOLI we get every April 15 in the form of your Income Tax bill? It probably might not be the best idea to write a check for half of your taxes with a Post-It note attached saying, “This is my negotiated settlement. Take it or leave it!” Or produce prices – when was the last time you went into a supermarket and negotiated the price of a head of lettuce? (And yet, it’s interesting that, when people come to the United States from societies that tend to foster negotiating a lot more than we do in the West, they’ll see a sign that advertises the price of a head of lettuce, and they’re thinking, “That’s the ASKING price.” And they’re actually able to DO it – they’ll by in bulk, or buy on Saturday night, when the older lettuce is getting a little brown around the edges and the new lettuce has arrived for the Sunday morning shoppers. They find ways of challenging that Take It Or Leave It and purchasing produce for less than the advertised price.

TIOLI is nothing more than a tactic. Learning how and why it works is the first step in being able to counter that tactic when it’s being used on you.

Just not in North Korea.