In today’s world with deep seated divisions in Washington we don’t have to look far to see nightly news with antagonistic implications as examples of unhealthy competition and rivalries. This situation gives rise to unethical and unhealthy behaviors. This is bad for relationships and business transactions too. So, what should we do when hard ball tactics are applied in negotiations?
A friendly rivalry takes place when both parties play to win, but at the end of the game the players and fans can come together. They each know that they tried their hardest, but in the end one team wins. This is healthy. This promotes sportsmanship, fair plan and integrity to the game being played.
An unhealthy rivalry takes place when one or both parties take their enthusiasm for their team to an unhealthy level.
For example, some soccer club fans in Europe become violent when hooliganism takes place between gangs of fans looking for a fight. These unhealthy relationships between rivalries is what can take place in other arenas as well. They may not be physical, but the psychological elements can be jus as strong.
Rivalries may not resort to physical confrontation in negotiations. However,
sometimes when adrenalin and other chemicals and hormones are released the emotional impact can be very detrimental.
For example, when the amygdala (reptilian brain) kicks in and floods the blood stream, we can become very angry. On the other hand, with practice the prefrontal cortex can override the amygdala and keep us from becoming angry. This takes practice.
What can we do?
For starters we can realize that we are naturally predisposed to view the world as binary, that is right and wrong. Of course, we think we are right.
One of the first things is to realize is that the world is made up many shades of gray.
What we can do is go into the negotiation concentrating that no matter what happens we will not let ourselves become angry. This is easy in theory, but hard in practice and it takes practice.
Sides of an issue
Think of a coin. How many sides are there to a coin? Two? Three? There are three. There is a heads, tails and the side of the coin. Similarly, in a negotiation there is my side, your side and the truth.
What we have to do is help all sides work towards focusing on the truth.
The key is to have both sides stop demonizing the other side and instead focus on the problem. The goal needs to be to address the issues realizing there are underlying facts, emotions and interests associated with each issue.
Sometimes we encourage fierce competition without even realizing we are contributing to the problem. How can that be?
Ask yourself what are you promoting and what are you reinforcing?
This may be with business matrix expectations, bonuses, promotions, and incentives. This may be indirect with respect to providing better assignments, better working conditions, being accepted into certain social circles or other indirect ways.
Appreciation or the lack thereof
How are you appreciating others and how are you appreciated?
Appreciation is the operative word. Not with financial rewards, but with praise, encouragement and recognition. Every organization has a its own culture. The way this may be addressed in your culture may be different. Once you understand the unwritten rules you will understand the implications of appreciation or lack of appreciation. Each has an impact on behavior. Employees are always watching and wanting to understand expectations. They react accordingly.
Avoid promoting fierce competition
Talk about this ahead of time. Discuss what is involved and why. We need to take ourselves seriously, but not to seriously. Sometimes it can help to laugh once in a while.
Help each other to not become overly zealous.
If one member of the team begins to overreact work as a team to de-escalate the situation.
It is necessary to overcome negative emotions.
This 10 step guide to de-escalate many situations can be very handy.
It suggests in part:
1. DON’T TAKE IT PERSONALLY
2. YOU DECIDE WHETHER TO BE ANGRY OR NOT
3. USE ACTIVE LISTENING
4. SLOW DOWN
5. BE EMPATHETIC
6. BE AWARE OF EMOTIONAL TRIGGERS
7. DON’T PASS JUDGMENT
8. ALWAYS BE COURTEOUS
9. WORK WITH THE OTHER PARTY TO SAY YES
10. POSITIVE SELF TALK
If a party is in conflict you:
Must be in control of yourself.
Need to ensure your physical stance contributes to the de-escalation.
Need to consider using the tips offered here to further enhance de-escalation
Find the opportunity
So much has to do with our attitude. Rather than looking at the competition as rival, look at the other side as an opportunity.
What can you do to connect with them? Actively listen to what they have to say.
Paraphrase, summarize, ask open ended questions and empathize. Say it better than they told it to you. Make sure they know you were listening and understand. Once they have been understood they are more likely to listen to you. We tend to reciprocate with how we have been treated. Reciprocate with understanding and empathy.
Educate and negotiate
Now is the time to educate them as you would with a judge. You are not there to sell the judge. If you do that, the judge is likely to see you as an advocate for your position or that of the client. Rather,
reach out to the other side as you would if you were an expert witness in court before the judge.
Be there to help the other party make a good decision. Work off of the common interests you uncovered earlier while you connected and actively listened.
Maintain high standards
Remain ethical. Take the high road. Don’t we aloof and act superior. Rather, remain calm. Focus on the problem. Explore alternatives jointly.
Determine the impacts of the alternatives economically, socially and environmentally. Evaluate the impacts the same way. Select a tentative solution and if necessary, test it. This gives both sides the chance to save face and potentially even improve the recommendation. Finally, implement a final solution or if necessary, back up to an earlier step in this process.
The use of objective data
Along the way, emotions are key.
As much as possible rely on standard and empirical data.
What does the data imply? Follow the data where ever possible. Be open to discussions on the implications of the data. Remember figures don’t lie, but liars’ figure. Beware of manipulations and don’t fall victim to the comments above and fall below the line. Take the high road.