Tom didn't quite know what to do. He had prepared several creative proposals, and until just now, he'd hoped that the Wolcott team would have brought some of their own. But they hadn't, and they didn't like his ideas either.
In desperation, he tried, "Maybe we should look at these options again — perhaps I explained them poorly."
Powell spoke for Wolcott. "No, you did a fine job — all three are just non-starters. We liked where we were yesterday."
When we're negotiating a difficult issue, we might occasionally feel that our negotiation partners are being inflexible. They won't even entertain alternatives that seem to us to be promising. We sometimes say to ourselves, "they've made up their minds."
We can feel frustrated when we encounter this. For most of us, flexibility and rationality are attributes we value, and when someone openly "breaks the rules," we can even feel angry.
Keeping in mind the many possible meanings of their behavior can make it easier to accept difference when we find it. Here are just a few alternative explanations for apparent intransigence. Of course, analogous ideas apply to you, too.When they won't budge,
inflexibility is only one
- Maybe they know something
- Perhaps there's some important information that they know and you don't. Whether or not that information is correct, they may be unable to share it with you. If you knew it too, your views might be more in alignment with theirs.
- Maybe they don't know they know something
- Perhaps they know something, and they believe that you know it, too, but you don't. If having the information is important to their view, not having it might be important to yours. Try inviting them to explore assumptions and context with you, to be certain that they've shared everything they can.
- Beliefs are stronger than facts
- They might have firm beliefs, rather than facts, that lead them to the conclusion they've reached. Persuading someone of the validity of facts is often possible; persuading someone of the invalidity of their beliefs is much more difficult.
- The slim end of the wedge
- They might believe that you have a wider agenda than you claim, and that if they flex here, you'll move them along toward your real objective. Is there any truth in this?
- Directed disagreement
- A superior might have directed them to take the position they're taking. This can happen, for example, when compromise might threaten a larger strategy that they're unwilling to modify or disclose, assuming that they know what it is.
When you next encounter strong differences, it might help to remember that we can never really know what's in the mind of another. And sometimes, we're not completely sure about our own. Top Next Issue
For more about differences and disagreements, see "Appreciate Differences," Point Lookout for March 14, 2001; "Towards More Gracious Disagreement," Point Lookout for January 9, 2008; "Blind Agendas," Point Lookout for September 2, 2009; and "Is the Question 'How?' or 'Whether?'," Point Lookout for August 31, 2011.
Are you fed up with tense, explosive meetings? Are you or a colleague the target of a bully? Destructive conflict can ruin organizations. But if we believe that all conflict is destructive, and that we can somehow eliminate conflict, or that conflict is an enemy of productivity, then we're in conflict with Conflict itself. Read 101 Tips for Managing Conflict to learn how to make peace with conflict and make it an organizational asset. Order Now!
Your comments are welcomeWould you like to see your comments posted here? rbrentEDRHLZhKAdUNChQner@ChaccBXZEvNPrOAjmsMvoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.
About Point Lookout
Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.
Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.
Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.
More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- The Solving Lamp Is Lit
- We waste a lot of time finding solutions before we understand the problem. And sometimes, we start solving
before everyone is even aware of the problem. Here's how to prevent premature solution.
- Trying to Do It Right the First Time Isn't Always Best
- You've probably heard the slogan, "Do it right the first time." It makes sense for some kinds
of work, but not for all. For more and more of the work done in modern organizations, doing it right
the first time — or even trying to — might be the wrong way to go.
- Troublesome Terminology
- The terms we use at work to talk about practices, policies, and procedures are serviceable, for the
most part. But some of them carry connotations and hidden messages that undermine our larger purposes.
- Have a Program, Not Just an Agenda
- In the modern organization, it's common to have meetings in which some people have never met —
and some never will. For these meetings, which are often telemeetings, an agenda isn't enough. You need
- Clueless on the Concept
- When a team member seems not to understand something basic and important, setting him or her straight
risks embarrassment and humiliation. It's even worse when the person attempting the "straightening"
is wrong, too. How can we deal with people we believe are clueless on the concept?
See also Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness for more related articles.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming October 18: Missing the Obvious: II
- With hindsight, we sometimes recognize that we could have predicted the very thing that just now surprised us. Somehow, we missed the obvious. Why does this happen? Available here and by RSS on October 18.
- And on October 25: Workplace Memes
- Some patterns of workplace society reduce organizational effectiveness in ways that often escape our notice. Here are five examples. Available here and by RSS on October 25.
I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrencjWNnjGKFDmRkUnDner@ChacOsLmNGzZDqKYtsGVoCanyon.com or (617) 491-6289, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.
Get the ebook!
Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:
- Get 2001-2 in Geese Don't Land on Twigs (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2003-4 in Why Dogs Wag (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2005-6 in Loopy Things We Do (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2007-8 in Things We Believe That Maybe Aren't So True (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2009-10 in The Questions Not Asked (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get all of the first twelve years (2001-2012) in The Collected Issues of Point Lookout (PDF, USD 28.99)
Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info
- Ten Project Management Fallacies: The Power of Avoiding Hazards
- Most of what we know about managing projects is useful and effective, but some of what we know "just ain't so." Identifying the fallacies of project management reduces risk and enhances your ability to complete projects successfully. Even more important, avoiding these traps can demonstrate the value and power of the project management profession in general, and your personal capabilities in particular. In this program we describe ten of these beliefs. There are almost certainly many more, but these ten are a good start. We'll explore the situations where these fallacies are most likely to expose projects to risk, and suggest techniques for avoiding them. Read more about this program. Here's a date for this program:
- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.
- Your stuff is brilliant! Thank you!
- You and Scott Adams both secretly work here, right?
- I really enjoy my weekly newsletters. I appreciate the quick read.
- A sort of Dr. Phil for Management!
- …extremely accurate, inspiring and applicable to day-to-day … invaluable.