Everyone knows what Entrenchment is. It is the process of arguing the same logic so many times that you can’t change your own mind.

It is similar to a couple beginning a driving trip with the wife asking her husband, “Do you want me to get out the map?” Of course, we men are descendants of the great explorers, so the answer has to be, “I don’t need a map, I know exactly how to get there; indeed, I think I know a good short-cut.” Several hours into our 30 minute trip, we have said “I know where I’m going and we are not going to stop for directions.” 17 times. By now there is no face-saving approach to ask for directions.

When entrenchment happens in the negotiation process we shift from a discovery-oriented both-win negotiation to a contest. Matters of principle will now overcome the ideal of the best agreement.

There is no fancy remedy for entrenchment except awareness. If you catch yourself repeating the same argument over and over, stop it! Hard to do? Maybe, but we all have to be in charge of ourselves in our negotiations.

What if our other party is becoming entrenched? Confront it early and gracefully: “It seems to me we are revisiting the same arguments without making any progress: may I suggest……….”

Another approach would be to find something in the other person’s arguments that could be acceptable to you and make a concession on that point only, in exchange for a concession on one of their points.

Give to get; keep it moving!

Jim Sauerwein

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