Negotiating Tip #38:
Faced with Nonsense, Give a Considered Response
When differences come up, it can be really hard not to jump the gun and get into the points of disagreement really fast. Whenever there are competing viewpoints, it feels like a contest, and the natural reaction is we want to win. And we can get to be aggressive.
There is a biological basis for all this – as humans evolved, part of the survival mechanism was that when under attack, blood would flow from our brains to our hands to do battle (or it would flow to our feet, to get the hell out of there, in the phenomenon known as “fight or flight” – another time, we will discuss the “flight” side, namely, skirting around disagreements).
Rather than jumping in with critiques even before the other side finishes speaking, a more effective approach for negotiators is to build in a step before you start disagreeing. We call this “the Considered Response.” Even if your mind is saying, “That’s insane”, your voice is saying something else: “OK, I’m listening. I’m not sure we can go along with that, but let me understand your position a little better. Tell me the thinking that went into that.”
That is a good way of finding out why the other side is taking what seems like such an odd position. Sometimes you may find out that the other side has a point; perhaps they are just explaining themselves badly.
But even if their position really is nuts, you will get a better idea if there is some way to get beyond this disagreement. If the other side is firmly wedded to something you cannot live with, better to know that right up front.