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Negotiation Wisdom

Suppose you have decided to confront someone who is causing you a considerable amount of stress, aggravation and anger.  Let’s also suppose that it isn’t just one behavior this person does, but several that drive you nuts.  Perhaps this is a close friend who borrows your things – money, clothing, books, electronic gadgets, tools and never returns them.  You have to ask for them back.  Moreover, many times whatever he or she borrowed comes back damaged.  Of course, they apologize but never offer to replace or repair the damaged item. When this friend goes out of town, they drop off their dog for you to look after – without even asking if you want to take on that responsibility.  The final straw occurred last Saturday morning when you returned from shopping to find your friend’s two little kids sitting on your front porch with a note.  The note said, “Please look after Katie and Ethan for me.  I’ll be back to get them at 6:00 pm.”


The first thing you have to do it have a serious talk with yourself and decide what you want as a result of your discussion with this friend:

●Do you wish to end this no-boundary relationship?

●Do you want to declare, “No more borrowing anything of mine?”

●Do you want to focus on getting them to replace or repair one item?

●Do you want to say, “I am unwilling to look after your kids or your dog?”

What you cannot do is tell them:

●”You are the most inconsiderate person I know!”

●”You have some nerve taking advantage of our relationship this way.”

●”You are using me and I want that to stop!”

The reason you cannot say the phrases listed above is because, believe it or not, those phrases are not specific enough.  All you will succeed in doing is frustrating your friend because he or she will not understand what you are talking about.


So, rule one is negotiation successfully is to know exactly what you want as an outcome of the discussion so that you can state it clearly to the other party.  This may sound too simple for words but, when we are angry, often we blurt out loud words that certainly deliver the message that we are angry but our meaning is lost in the fog of our hostility.


The second rule of negotiation around actions of others that cause us hostility is to select one item for discussion.  Leave all the other actions this person is doing for discussion at a later time.  There are two very good reasons why you only want to put one item up for discussion:

●You do not want to dilute the person’s focus by loading them with too many moving targets.  People today have very limited patience and mental capacity for dealing with your problems.

●You do not want the person to feel that the situation is hopeless and well beyond any possible resolution.  If you select one item, resolution seems easily within reach.


Select the item which is causing you the most aggravation.  When there are multiple issues causing you hostility, very often speaking about one of the items is enough to cause the person to clean up their act on all the other items.  It is like dropping a small pebble in a still pond which causes a series of ripples.  What you have actually done is put a line in the sand that sends the person a message about their aggravating behavior.


One very famous and brilliant statesman who negotiated for the State Department would begin every negotiation discussion be saying, “I think we are pretty much all in agreement here on the issues. We just need to clean up a few details.”  In truth, the parties involved were no where near agreeing to anything.  However, when he made his little speech, all the grim faces began to smile and the parties involved eagerly rolled up their sleeves to begin working out those little details.

The third rule negotiation around actions of others that cause us hostility is to use words which objectively and specifically describe the situation.  Do not use terms that over-dramatize the situation or blow it way out of proportion.  Most certainly do not use words which incite the other person.  When you do that, you make it impossible for the other party to find a middle ground.  Such terminology creates an ossified stance on both sides and so does not forward the resolution process.


Instead of saying, “You are totally unprincipled and irresponsible when it comes to spending money.  Why are you such a spendthrift?”  Try saying, “I am really concerned that you went over our monthly household budget again.  This time by by $375.00.  What are we going to do about this situation?”


Instead of saying, “Your behavior is bizarre.  What you said was total idiocy.  People will think you are absolutely out of your mind.”  Try saying, “I think your comments really surprised people. I don’t think they expected to hear that point of view.”


If you want to see the results of using inappropriate over- dramatic words, you have only to look at our congress.  When discussing the President’s health care bill, our Speaker of the House declared that if the bill was past it would bring the country to total Armageddon – which is supposed to be the battle that ends the world as we know it.


For those of you who are not history buffs, Armageddon has already occurred – in 1260.  The Mongol horde was about to sweep acrossEurope.  There was a little trading town at the bottom of a mountain pass in the Middle East namedMegiddo.  In front of the town was a large grassy plain.  Solders from all across Europe and theMiddle Eastmet on this plain to turn back the Mongols who were led by a descendent of Genghis Kahn.  In those days solders fought on horseback with swords, pikes, spears, knives and bows and arrows.  Many thousands died that day and the plain was soaked with blood but the Mongols were turned back.  This battle became known as the Battle of Armageddon.  I hope you notice that It did not end the world.


There are many tips for negotiating yourself out of anger-causing situations in my book, From Rage to ResolutionYou can find info on how to purchase the book on my blog.  It is just too many strategy to put into a blog.  However, I can tell you this, using my strategies will clean up a lot of stressful hostility in your life.