Taking Sides

I’m in the middle of a few negotiations. Actually, I’m more of a mediator than a negotiator and I’ll explain that in a second.  What we’re negotiating isn’t important to the screed today but the manner in which the negotiations are taking place is. Frankly, I’ve rarely been as frustrated as I am at the moment and I’d like to explain why because it illustrates some things people sometimes do that are self-defeating.

The Inner Cloister

(Photo credit: kern.justin)

One thing I’ve always believed about business dealings is that there needs to be a certain amount of trust.  You have to believe that the other party is acting in good faith.  In my mind it’s like our system of justice:  innocent until proven guilty. In this case I’m working with two parties who completely mistrust one another.  In part that’s because they’re in a field that’s filled with people who misrepresent themselves.  In part it’s because neither of them is willing to reveal more than a little information at a time which fosters mistrust and doubt.  It’s a prescription for disaster.

Another thing that’s become obvious is that rather than the two parties positioning themselves on the same side of the table trying to solve mutual problems they’ve taken seats on opposite sides.  They’re missing out on the mutual creativity and solutions that can come when the parties work together.  Instead, they make demands of one another which arise from their own needs without any recognition of the other side’s reality.  It makes for a protracted discussion rather than a quick resolution.

I think it boils down to the people involved.  It’s way too easy to write it off to the industry or to the money.   Negotiating requires maturity and empathy – these folks seem to have neither.  As is the case in most business situations you can’t fix the business until you fix the people involved.  That’s a far more difficult process than any business deal.  As the intermediary, my role has been to keep the information flowing, the dialog alive and the emotion each party has been expressing to me from arriving on the other party’s doorstep to make things more complicated.  I’m successful at it some of the time but once in a while some of the above factors leak through my firewall.  It makes for interesting days.

There is only one side in a negotiation – the one on which things get done.  Of course there are divergent needs and priorities but unless and until everyone commits to a solution that is mutually-beneficial and encompasses the entirety of those things, not much gets done.  Do you agree?

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Filed under Helpful Hints, Thinking Aloud

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