Tag Archives: compromise

The One Thing You Must Understand In Any Negotiation.

Negotiation is so hard because we make it hard. When we attack the other side, we limit our chances for a mutually satisfying solution. We create our own prisons and then we wonder why we are trapped.

Jail

As I write, our politicians are locking horns in a contentious debate that will affect us all.  Debate is nothing new, but the level of acrimony seems to be on the rise. The acrimony is accelerated by the moral superiority that each side feels it has over the other. This leads to more hyper-partisan attacks, but it also reduces the chances that we will arrive at creative 3rd alternative solutions.

Identity.

The core of the problem is that each side sees their position as their identity. We have forgotten that when you attack the position, you attack the person.  Stephen Covey wrote:

3rd_AlternativeAlmost everyone identifies with one alternative or the other. That’s why we have liberals against conservatives, Republicans against Democrats, workers against management…spouse against spouse, socialist against capitalist, and believers against nonbelievers. It’s why we have racism and prejudice and war.

Each of the two alternatives is deeply rooted in a certain mind-set. For example, the mind-set of the environmentalist is formed by appreciation for the delicate beauty of balance of nature. The mind-set of the developer is formed by a desire to see communities grow and economic opportunities increase. Each side usually sees itself as virtuous and rational and the other side as lacking virtue or common sense.

The deep roots of my mind-set entwine with my very identity. If I say I’m an environmentalist or a conservative or a teacher, I’m describing more than what I believe and value–I’m describing who I am. So when you attack my side, you attack me and my self image. (pp. 9-11)

The One Thing You Need To Understand.

 Strongly held positions = Personal identity.

I am a Christian. For me, this is a primary identity. So when secularists attack Christmas  (e.g. renaming a Christmas tree a “Holiday tree” in order to embrace people of all faiths), I understand how many Christians experience this as an attack on them and their values.

I am a Conservative. So when the far-left seized the opportunity to advance their gun-control agenda in the wake of the tragedy at Newtown, I quickly penned three articles in defense of 2nd Amendment rights:

[Note: I believe that most ordinary Americans–even those who are now rethinking gun-control–simply want to ensure that a similar tragedy is not repeated. These people are different than those with a prepackaged agenda.]

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Notice that I said “I am” a Christian and “I am” a Conservative. I did not say that I think that Christianity or the Founding Fathers provided  rationally superior systems of thought. It is simply not that abstract. This is what I mean by identity. 

The point is this: If you are a Conservative, do not demonize Liberals if you wish to make any progress.  Remember:

Strongly held positions = Personal identity.

It Is The Same Way At The Office.

At work, if you have just disparaged Todd about the XYZ account at the last staff meeting, you are not likely to get Todd’s support on most basic items on your agenda.

If you say 2+2 =4, he will not attack your math, but you had better be prepared for him to ridicule your elementary thinking or your inability to think outside the box.  Why? He worked hard on the XYZ account and when you attacked it, you attacked him.  You violated his identity.

Whether you are in Congress or at the office, the one thing you must understand in any negotiation is that in order to gain cooperation you must not attack the other’s identity.

What are your thoughts on this? Have you ever experienced an attack on your identity that prevented your cooperation?

-Darin Gerdes, Ph.D.

December 20, 2012

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Dr. Gerdes is the Director of the MBA Program at Charleston Southern University

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