Why We Should Slow Down and Concentrate on the Negotiation At Hand

We at Mobus Creative Negotiating talk a lot about the insights of the modern school of economic research called “behavioral economics.” At its most basic level, behavioral economics says that you simply can’t understand how the economy works unless you understand how people actually make decisions, and the way our thought process or, our mind, works.
A big name in the field is Daniel Kahneman, who won the Nobel Prize for economics even though he is a psychologist. He is most famous for his book  THINKING FAST AND SLOW, which he conveniently summarized in a lecture printed in Scientific American (Of 2 Minds: How Fast and Slow Thinking Shape Perception and Choice [Excerpt]).  He writes about our two mental systems.  What he calls System 1 is our fast, or automatic system, while system 2 is our slow, reflective system.  In that Scientific American article, he describes the relationship between them as follows:

“When we think of ourselves, we identify with System 2, the conscious, reasoning self that has beliefs, makes choices, and decides what to think about and what to do. Although System 2 believes itself to be where the action is, the automatic System 1 is the hero of the book. I describe System 1 as effortlessly originating impressions and feelings that are the main sources of the explicit beliefs and deliberate choices of System 2. The automatic operations of System 1 generate surprisingly complex patterns of ideas, but only the slower System 2 can construct thoughts in an orderly series of steps. I also describe circumstances in which System 2 takes over, overruling the freewheeling impulses and associations of System 1.”

Generally when negotiating we want our decisions to be guided by System 2, that is, we should make decisions based on careful consideration rather than on impulse.  Kahneman’s basic advice about how to put System 1 in charge is to concentrate.  Again to quote the article:

“The often-used phrase ‘pay attention’ is apt: you dispose of a limited budget of attention that you can allocate to activities, and if you try to go beyond your budget, you will fail. It is the mark of effortful activities that they interfere with each other, which is why it is difficult or impossible to conduct several at once.”

We at Mobus Creative Negotiating teach a wide variety of ways to get yourself to do what you know you should do, namely, to pay attention.  The starting point for our suggestions is Kahneman’s insight that this is not the automatic mental mode – that our default approach is to go with our gut rather than to think things through.  We offer you a lot of ways to get yourself to slow down rather than shooting from the hip.  It sounds easy, but in practice, fewer things are more difficult.  Just being told to concentrate and take your time is not going to do it; you need practical advice on how to get yourself to do that.