Tips for negotiating with a liar

I told this guy, Brendan, that I would write about his baby bottles on my blog. Well, first I told him he had to pay me. Then he sent the bottles to me, and I liked them, so writing about them on the blog didn’t seem like it would be that difficult. Also, Brendan has been reading my blog for a long time. It felt good to tell him yes.

I told him that six months ago. During the past six months, I have told him probably fifteen times that I’ll post about his bottles the next day.

I had this idea that I’d send the bottles to my friend Caitlin to try. She has a newborn. Except that she is having a breakdown. Not a total breakdown, but the kind of breakdown that every mom with a toddler and a new baby has when she realizes that two kids is not like 1 + 1 it’s more like 1 + 10.

It took me a while to realize that I would be testing these bottles myself.

Most of us lie at some point during negotiations. Did you know that? It made me feel better to know that.

Sometimes I’d wonder: Did Brendan go to my blog and look for the post? Or did he know I was probably not going to follow through? Sometimes I’d feel sorry for Brendan that he had to deal with me. Other times, I’d think maybe he reads articles on how to negotiate with a liar, because he followed all the rules with me.

Like, you are supposed to keep being nice. Which he always was.

When I’d write: “Just one more day.”

He’d write back: “Great!”

At one point he asked me if I wanted to give him a refund. And of course I said no. And then I said, “I’ll do it this week.”

That’s another thing to do with a dishonest negotiator – give alternatives.

To be clear, I always thought I’d do the post. It’s not like I set out to be a horrible person. It just sort of happened that way.

During World War II the CIA published a Simple Sabotage Field Manual. And it turns out I’m a natural saboteur.

Like, I was really slow responding to emails, which, in World War II terms is “at the telephone switchboard, delay putting calls through.” I think the manual was written just to make me feel like I’m CIA material: “Work slowly. Think of ways to increase the number of movements needed to do your job: use a light hammer instead of a heavy one; try to make a small wrench do instead of a big one.”

One time Brendan sent an email to me that said his co-workers think he was stupid to pay me ahead of time. They think I’ll never post.

That really killed me. He was giving me a vote of confidence even after his co-workers ridiculed him. This is a great tactic to use with people who lie in negotiations: Reveal a little about yourself to establish rapport.

I felt like he was my friend. He probably doesn’t think we are friends, because friends don’t make friends wait ten months for blog posts. But the New York Times says that only about half of our perceived friendships are mutual, so I guess this means we really are friends.

That piece in the New York Times talks about how friendships are layered. And each layer is a different type of friendship. So probably Brendan and I have the sort of friendship that happens between a mercenary and someone who wants to save the world.

Brendan wants to save the world with his company, mimijumi. I can tell by the bottles. They are meant to feel like the breast so that mothers can go back and forth between breast and bottle without making a breast feeding fiasco. (Bottles are much easier for babies than breasts. They are the street-corner crack dealer in the breast milk neighborhood.)

The hardest thing for me about lying to Brendan so many times is that it feels lonely. The more you lie the more disconnected you feel. From yourself, or other people, or both. It’s incremental. Small lies and small disconnects. But they add up to a picture of despair.

If I had been given these bottles when I was breast feeding, I would have felt less lonely. It’s very lonely to be a new mom. It’s very lonely to be a feeding machine. And it’s scary to think you have to go months and months without a break.

Brendan has had faith in me this whole time. I’m not sure why, but it’s done for me what the bottles are meant to do for mothers: I felt like someone believed in me even when I didn’t think I could do it. Thank you, Brendan.


65 replies
  1. TammyG
    TammyG says:

    Penelope, I love you so much. There’s just no end to your awesomeness. This piece was fantastic! Checking out the bottles right now…

  2. Karen
    Karen says:

    Oh my goodness! 1+1 child = 1+ 10 children!!! Yes! This was exactly my take on it, and my two are both well into their 20’s now.

    Coincidentally, I have a baby shower to go to soon and have been racking my brain for gift ideas.

    I’ve been following your blog for a long time, and although I rarely comment, I want you to know I alway enjoy what you have to say and the way you say it.

  3. Amy Moore
    Amy Moore says:

    Penelope this is probably one of your best posts ever. I loved reading the CIA link on sabotage. Fascinating and vulnerable and honest, all while telling the story of you being a liar, which I disagree with. You were instead a saboteur, I guess. Captivating.

  4. Carol of Kensington
    Carol of Kensington says:

    Penelope, you’re worth it in the end. That’s what this guy realises. Where can I get some in England? My friend with a 5 month old is going crazy.

  5. Sam
    Sam says:

    I am disappointed. Your story is that you cheated someone. You did a great job of convincing me not to trust you to with anything, especially my time.

    • Bob
      Bob says:

      Penelope does things when she’s ready. Or not. Car payments, for example. Actually this shows the power of personality. People still do business with Donald Trump, even though they must know he screws people blind, just because he can.

    • Malcolm Macpherson
      Malcolm Macpherson says:

      I felt that too. Disappointed (‘cheated’ is too strong a word, I’m not that big a sucker). Maybe there’s a bit of naivete here, but the notion that there are commercial promises behind these posts – that I’m just another ‘mark’ – somehow diminishes them

  6. Amy
    Amy says:

    I think Sam missed the point. Waiting for Penelope to write about his bottles was totally worth worth waiting for and his gentle nudging, politeness and negotiating will pay off. I have 20+ year olds and I followed the link and I am wracking my brain how to tell people about these bottles! Brendan was brilliant! (and Penelope’s post was too!)

    • Jay
      Jay says:

      Given that we have no idea how much Brendan paid for this endorsement or how many bottles he’s sold as a result, I feel like it’s important to state that no one in this comments section can speak to whether or not it was ‘worth it’ to wait. Given the extra emotional strain Penelope put him through continually following up and suffering the ridicule of his friends, that would have to be one hell of a windfall.

  7. ellen
    ellen says:

    i feel weird after reading this. it’s so disheartening to read that you’re comfortable with lying. it’s not surprising, i think most successful people are comfortable with their lack of ethics. it’s sad though. i would actually like more practical tips (such as keep being friendly!) on how to deal with liars. it is good that you are aware though, i have to believe you must have a conscience. it’s a very interesting and well written post. and it’s honest in a weird way. xoxoxo

    • Elizabeth
      Elizabeth says:

      Ellen, everyone lies. Very often these lies are not intentional or mean-spirited. If you have never done contract work, it would be impossible for you to understand the challenge of being disciplined enough to work for yourself. I always tell my clients to give me hard deadlines because otherwise the work won’t get done. I could say “next week” for a month, and genuinely mean it each week, and yet still the work would never get done. I guess that made me a liar, but I certainly have integrity and a conscience, and I like to think I have good karma as well.

      On another note, I was just telling my husband that he would have to wait a long time to feed our baby (due in January) because of nipple confusion, but these bottles may be the ticket to making that happen sooner! Based on my reaction and that of those who have commented, this post seems like money well spent on Brendan’s part.

      • Melissa
        Melissa says:

        Nipple confusion is not an inevitability. You and your husband might have to give your baby a little formula from a bottle before your milk comes in and it’s totally not a big deal.

  8. harris497
    harris497 says:

    Excellent writing, you turned a questionable situation into a positive by admitting fault and then using your talent to generate interest in the product. Brendan was correct to have faith in you. You came through for him… I even went to his website, and my youngest are 13:)

  9. Alana
    Alana says:

    I have a 7 week old baby and breastfeed. I’m afraid that he’ll prefer a bottle over my breast someday. I’m glad to see that this product is out there.

  10. Rebecca Gonzalez
    Rebecca Gonzalez says:

    Is he pleased with your post? Is your blog really the natural target for baby bottles? Maybe the home schooling blog. I am totally confused as to why you would ever agree to write about baby bottles.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Baby bottles totally belong on this blog. Feeding a baby is a huge issue for women who have a 9-5 job. Or any job, really.

      When I breastfed my sons my life revolved around making sure there was milk. If women cannot put breastmilk in a bottle for someone else to feed the baby, then they can never wrestle themselves from the baby.

      Baby bottles don’t work for women if the baby won’t go back to the breast after an easy speedy bottle.

      Baby bottles are a huge career issue.


      • Erin
        Erin says:

        My son hated bottles. but I had to pump because not pumping kills your milk supply. I had 700+ oz in the freezer after his first birthday that my son wouldn’t eat because he wouldn’t take a bottle, or would only have 1-2 oz out of desperation. I sent him to daycare anyway (INTJ) and cluster fed at 6, 7, 8, 9, 12, 2, and then 6 again because I didn’t want him to have formula and that was my best option. I tried a lot of different bottles, I would have tried these if I had known about them. I’ll tell my friends. and breastfeeding while working is a huge issue. it’s all consuming to figure out how to empty your boobs every 2-4 hours for months on end and then what to do with the milk (storage and transportation) and then make the bottles for the next day at daycare which must then be labeled appropriately (baby’s name, date for school, date pumped, # of oz. On top of working and caring for an infant. and people wonder why women don’t lean in because it’s really hard.

        I used to work at a high school. one day the principal called me asking for advice about one of the students who had given birth over Christmas break and wanted to continue BFing. I suggested that she pump during homeroom and then lunch in the women’s locker room or in the clinic (fun fact, schools aren’t often set up for any sort of BFing) and the administration didn’t care for either of those options because as a minor it wasn’t acceptable to have her “unsupervised” during the school day.

  11. Mel
    Mel says:

    Clever tactic. And, I wish I had known about the bottles and Brendan when I was breastfeeding exclusively and failing miserably at it.

    • jessica
      jessica says:

      It’s ok, I will.

      P, Why do you feel the need to please Brendon? It’s a little odd.

      Business is business, and he clearly felt the value of your post was worth him, literally, waiting around for it. Otherwise he would have bugged off long ago (and this hasn’t even been a long time-frame for advertising).

      I don’t understand the pushiness on his side (15! emails, does he not have other outlets for ads?)- do you know this person dearly?

      I find him to be embarrassing. You’re literally trying to manage your biz and priorities and then find a product placement for his bottles on your career blog (takes time, right?).
      You probably wanted to sabatoge him because he comes across as a manipulative asshole. Now you’re left in the end feeling like he is the winner and you owe him something and that he did something ‘good’ for you.

  12. Leonie
    Leonie says:

    Hey Penelope, I checked out the site and the bottles look really interesting. I had a hard time breastfeeding and something like this could have helped.

    The bottles have a good design, so my question is: why no pictures?

  13. Anna Allocco
    Anna Allocco says:

    I love this post. It’s a great reminder that power and connection lie less in what we do and more in who we are. Thanks Brendan and Penelope!

  14. sarah
    sarah says:

    ok…so you said you would have to test the bottles yourself, so how did you do this? Because the idea of you drinking from a baby bottle with your dinner creates a funny picture in my mind.

  15. Vanessa
    Vanessa says:

    Dearest Penelope,

    I hope you refund Brendon his money. He paid you in advance in good faith and you didn’t deliver.

    Bad Karma may come to you if you don’t and I don’t want anything bad to happen to you. You will feel less shitty within yourself if you do the right thing. It will make you feel more noble.

  16. Mark
    Mark says:

    If I read this post like a newspaper column and go to the end for the punch line it emphasizes loneliness. Loneliness is the classic single symptom for people with Asperger’s Syndrome and I doubt that adoring fans or compliments do anything to alleviate the feelings. Seems to me that you are at a crossroads in your life and you really want to choose home and kids over career and you are starting to sabotage your business rather than just give it a graceful end and buy some free time to hopefully come up with a new idea for the next big thing with big scalable potential.

    If your heart were into building your current business it seems that you would be doing so but it almost appears that you are becoming a product placement service or 1-900 number for people who want to speak to someone interesting. Not that there is anything horrible with any of that, and you do have to pay bills, but it does not seem to be you living up to your highest potential or your dreams.

    You are certainly entertaining but you are also doing a very effective job of convincing me that as a coach, consultant, or adviser you cannot be trusted. Your writing and research shows your high intelligence and I have no doubt about that or your abilities which leads me to believe your apparent self sabotage may be logical and intentional in the big picture as you see it.

    I’d love to see an entire column filled with the big picture ideas that you have bouncing around your head that Melissa and Cassie reject. What are your big picture dreams and ideas?

    Have a nice weekend.

  17. Casey
    Casey says:

    Gah! Wish I had known about these bottles 10 months ago when my son was born and I needed a bottle while trying to get his latch straightened out!!

  18. Muriel
    Muriel says:

    What a wonderful post Penelope.
    Here is something that certainly will not help your self sabotaging trait.
    I went straight to the site, as I am breastfeeding and I need this baby bottle!
    I placed a bottle in my cart and went to the checkout…only to realise that there is no deliveries in Europe.
    What a shame!

    • Muriel
      Muriel says:

      Actually, I found a supplier through Amazon. My Mimijumi bottle is on the way. I am going to get my life back!!

  19. Michael LaRocca
    Michael LaRocca says:

    Did you really call Brian’s bottles street-corner crack in the breast milk neighborhood? He just got his money’s worth right there. Now I want to see one of these bottles and I had a vasectomy in 1989.

  20. Jane
    Jane says:

    Penelope you are spot on, bottles are like the street corner crack dealer. I wish I had this bottle before I had my baby ( a few months ago)! Long story short my baby only drinks out of the bottle and refuses to take my breast so I have to pump 4x a day (used to be 6x) and then feed her. I’m a stay at home mom, that does NOT mean I want to spend hours pumping when I could have rest and take care of all the other millions of things on the to-do list!

    I didn’t understand the whole bottle vs breastfeeding issue Bc all my friends had babies that can go back and forth with regular bottles and also had babies that learn to breastfeed at 2nd and 4th month of age so I thought I could do it too.

    I’ll be buying this one for my 2nd baby just in case I run into trouble again like I did with the first one. He should market this not just for babies who are initially breastfed but also for babies like mine who aren’t but with moms who doesn’t want babies to get too comfortable with bottles (Bc it’s too easy) and will try to train baby to take the breast even months after baby was born. Bc breastfeeding is just so much easier when you can and bottles are just so much easier when you can’t. You need both, Bc life is hectic with a baby hahahaha!

    Not looking forward to the 1+1=10. Thanks for the heads up.

    • Caitlin
      Caitlin says:

      Jane – get the bottle. It IS 1+1 = 10. Not in a bad way really but anything you can do to prepare is helpful. Mid-breakdown I realized I couldn’t feed the baby AND play with my toddler (Nevermind get back to work).

  21. Wyman Tyler
    Wyman Tyler says:

    One small point…the CIA did not exist during WWII. It’s Office of Stretgic Services was the precursor to today’s CIA. Truly enjoy your quirky take on the abnormal …normal in life.

    Keep swing and Walk in Beauty!

  22. Wendy
    Wendy says:

    This is a great post.

    If I ever have kids (which I swear I won’t but according to you I definitely will in my 30s), I may not remember Brandon’s name or his company’s name off the top of my head – but I will remember that one time you made a post about some baby bottles that sounded great, and then I’ll want to dig this post up and find the bottles. I hope they’re still around by then.

    You make me want to buy stuff despite being extremely cheap and extremely poor. I still think about those stupid purple mattresses.

    Also you did a really good job of selling Brandon’s character here, which will make all the mushy NFs like me think, “oh, Brandon sounds like a nice person. We should really support his business.” I’m very impressed.

      • Wendy
        Wendy says:

        Well, Gary, I guess that just bolsters my point that I’m not gonna remember his name. But see? I still had the post in mind and swung back around to read it again and found your comment to respond to.

        Now I can apologize to Brendan for messing up his name (sorry, Brendan!) and the guilt from my screw-up will make me ACTUALLY remember his name going forward, whenever I think about baby bottles. :)

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Thanks, Wendy. I should hire you as a sales person. Do you think you could get Anthropologie to sponsor my blog? I want everything they sell. I want a deal where I have something from Antropologie in every picture because it’s all over my house…

      But then I think what would happen is I’d feel like the house looks like Anthropologie instead of my house. So you’d probably have to get a sponsor like Bloomingdales, too, to mix things up.

      Then I’d want you to get MOMA to sponsor my blog so I could have their paintings on loan. This is why I never have a salesperson for my blog….


      • Wendy
        Wendy says:

        You should hire me anyway because you seem to keep hiring INFJs who are Jehovah’s Witnesses, and now you need to hire one with Asperger’s to complete your collection. Doesn’t that sound like fun? (I bet it doesn’t.)

        MOMA would be such a cool sponsor, but I’m not sure they do blog sponsorships. If they did, you’d probably have to be an an art history academic. Or a millionaire. Or both. Becoming a millionaire seems like your best bet and even then, it would be hard to pull off. The art world is such a tangled mess of connections and strings-pulling.

  23. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    The world is a better, nicer, and more pleasant place thanks to people like Brendan. He comes across to me as a good, patient, and confident leader. He was able to maintain his composure and retain his faith in himself (for making a good decision) and you (to deliver on your promise of a blog post) even though his co-workers thought he was stupid to pay you ahead of time. It would be interesting to know what his co-workers think now even though it probably didn’t really matter that much before (or even now). If they’re lucky, he’ll treat them as nice as he did you which I think he will.
    I was interested in the name mimijumi and its origin so I did some searching. I found the following – “The name mimijumi came from listening to the sound my baby was making while feeding at the breast. It was a contented and comforting sound and I knew I wanted to replicate that while my baby was feeding from my bottle. For me it said ‘Mother’s love’ and, as far as I am concerned that is the meaning of mimijumi.”

    • Q
      Q says:

      P.S. Dear P, I’m looking forward to reading your post tomorrow.

      It just wouldnt be the same without your wise words ….

  24. Tess
    Tess says:

    The thing about lying is that it has a ripple affect beyond the person one has lied to. I kept thinking of all the mothers and babies who could have benefited from the bottle over those 10 months.
    A cleverly written article. Interesting how much easier it is to be clever than just plain ole’ nice. My hope is it makes us all nicer people…

  25. Amy
    Amy says:

    I have to say I think that calling Penelope a liar and blaming her for preventing mothers from getting a bottle they needed months ago is a bit harsh. She said she intended to get to this post every time she said she would to Brendan. Penelope works on her own clock. She does not follow rules. She is extremely successful and effective in her own quirky way. This is the reason we all read her blog. We don’t read boring blogs. She always surprises and sometimes shocks us. Give her some credit for creating a post that made all of us readers immediately click on the link to the bottles and one that we’ll ALL remember and refer everyone we know with a baby to.

  26. TLC
    TLC says:

    “A mimijumi baby bottle looks and feels like a real breast”

    a white woman’s breast.

    I’m glad my children are grown, and I used non-optimal brown rubber nippled bottles.


    I am 100% confident that I wouldn’t love this product, I’d be pissed every time I saw it in my baby’s mouth. I guess I could pretend I had a forced white wet nurse, but I’m sure that would be even worse for my psyche.

    • Brendan
      Brendan says:

      Hi TLC,

      We agree and that’s why are so excited to have darker skin tone nipples in testing right now! We hope to have them available by December.

      While babies are largely color blind at that age, we understand that moms would prefer bottles that look more like them.

      Thanks for letting us know!


  27. Felicity
    Felicity says:

    Great advice I was given not too long ago: “Never let them know you know.”

    I can always tell when someone’s lying, but I never say a word about it because as soon as you let on that you know, then it’s all over. Everything comes to a screeching halt and the defenses go up. What’s the fun in that?

    It’s best to take what you know along with the lie you’ve been told and make it work for you. Perhaps Brendan was given the same advice I was.

  28. Jessica
    Jessica says:

    This is the first time I ever post a comment on a blog. No, I am not in the market for bottle, but I just had to tell you what a crafty and talented writer you are. I just had to click the bottle company’s link! What a great product, I wish I had it. Tell Brandan, he is lucky that you were willing to post the life-changing bottle for him!

    • Liz
      Liz says:

      We’re on our second baby using the Mimijumi and totally love it. I worried – desperately- about nipple confusion after working so hard at breastfeeding. The bottle eased my fears. My girlfriend is due this summer and I can’t wait to pass on this bottle to her.

      Really, it’s also a great conversation piece. It doesn’t look like other bottles and it’s got a unique name.

      Thanks, Brendan!

  29. Ginger
    Ginger says:

    I see that Brendan is in Wilmington. I have a home in Delaware and it is a business friendly state. Clearly Brendan has figured out that relationships are important in business and success. He also had the smarts to locate someplace that welcomes people who want to succeed in business.

  30. Grace
    Grace says:

    Such lovely bottles. I have to go to some baby showers in the next few months. I think I know what I’ll be giving as a gift. And knowing that the owner isn’t a dick makes more willing to order from mimijumi.

  31. Sheila
    Sheila says:

    I am disappointed. Your story is that you cheated someone. You did a great job of convincing me not to trust you to with anything, especially my time.

  32. Donna Norton
    Donna Norton says:

    I liked Brendan’s tactics, of course, no one is happy with delays, but patience results in achieving the goals, not angriness or simple breaking-off. Great post, thanks for sharing, Penelope!

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