Negotiating in Life, Negotiating Tips, Business Negotiation January 17, 2011

Civil Discourse in Business Negotiations

A year ago on Negotiation Space, we discussed how civility can save your negotiation. It is worth revisiting this now as the country marks Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday on Monday, January 17 and also deals with the aftermath of the horrible tragedy in Tucson, Arizona.

It is hard to escape the calls for increased civility in political discourse. Although in the case of the Tucson shooting it is not clear that political rhetoric led the shooter to execute his rampage, it is easy to see how angry, heated exchanges can lead to violence. In terms of the civil rights movement, Dr. King advocated for civil disobedience—using quiet resistance instead of violence.

The issue for business negotiations is that attacking and creating an “us-versus-them” dynamic does not lead to agreement. Any negotiation starts with the premise that the parties are seeking to reach agreement. Insulting the other party is not going to result in compromise and finding common ground.

Dr. Chester Karrass writes:

“There are people who try to get what they want by becoming emotional, by embarrassing the other person or becoming a nuisance. Most of us become defensive when we encounter such behavior. We are not prepared for people in business to display emotions or act in an embarrassing way.”

Dr. Karrass goes on to say that people who act this way in a negotiation are using an intimidation tactic designed to make you less assertive in supporting your position.

To deal with incivility, you first must recognize that if the other party is being rude or otherwise unpleasant, it may be a negotiation tactic to put you on the defensive. Take the higher ground, but also stand your ground.

How do you deal with incivility in a business negotiation?

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