More on Managing Tactics

Tip Nine – Continued – Managing Tactics When Necessary

In our last several posts, we’ve been discussing tactics. In my first post on the subject, I explained that, even though tactics can pose a challenge to your progress towards your objective, they also provide you with important information about the concerns of those who are using them.  Often, if we pause to explore the underlying reasons that a person is using a tactic against us, we can address their concern and enlist them as an ally.

In my second post on the topic, we explored how people use space as a tactic. I mentioned that we call the study of space proxemics.  Placing you in an uncomfortably small or, on the opposite end, in a very open unwelcoming environment, can make us uncomfortable.  When we feel uncomfortable, it detracts from our ability to focus on our objective and to maintain our focus.  We also talked about managing space when we are involved in managing a conflict situation. I explained that, when people are stressed and feeling threatened, their space needs increase substantially.

Today, we will focus on several other tactics that you might encounter during an important conversation or negotiation. Today’s examples of tactics that your might encounter include:

  • Extreme initial positions – it is a proven axiom that higher aspirations yield higher results. So – particularly in situations involving purchase negotiations, or in situations involving settlement of claims – you will often encounter opening positions that are extreme. By “anchoring” the initial position to a higher or lower extreme, the other person hopes to pull you farther in that direction from the outset of the discussion. How do we counter this? Some useful tools to manage an extreme opening position include:
    • Alternatives – if you have done your research and you know that you have the option to simply walk away and to seek the item or service from another, you have leverage.
    • Benchmarks – likewise, if you have done your research and you know what the alternatives are and the generally accepted fair market value of the item or service, you may be able to quickly pull the position in your direction.
    • Shared benefit – typically, when you are negotiating for an item or service, there is a mutual benefit.  Often you can neutralize an extreme opening tactic, if you can shift the paradigm from one of competition to one of mutual gain through the exchange.
  • Good-guy/Bad-guy – you see this on TV cop shows all the time. One person behaves in a very threatening way and the other appears to alleviate the threat.  So, you end up trusting the “nice” person, who then maneuvers you into concessions that, without the looming threat from the “bad” person, you might not have otherwise considered.  Some ways to deal with this tactic, are:
    • Identify the tactic for what it is by simply identifying the tactic when you see it and letting the others who are trying to use it know that you recognize it as a tactic, you may not only neutralize the tactic, but put pressure on the “bad guy” to behave! (You may find that openly identifying the tactic is a powerful tool to neutralize many tactics.)
    • Refuse to be ganged up on – if you identify the behavior for what it is and it still continues, another approach is to simply refuse to work with the “bad guy,” or you can control the environment so that the behavior, if continued, must happen in front of witnesses or in settings where misbehavior will be less tolerated.
    • Meet force with force – I am certainly not advocating physical violence here! However, another proven axiom of negotiation is that one should always start start a conversation collaboratively, but one must also be prepared to mirror the other’s move when confronted by aggression.  So, if you encounter the proverbial bad guy, you may have to be prepared to simply push back and become even firmer in the face of the threatening behavior. When the Good-Guy/Bad-Guy team sees that the behavior is actually strengthening your own firmness and resolve, often the tactic is discarded.
    • Meet force with humor  project confidence and a lack of intimidation by meeting the aggressive behavior with humor. Remember, unless you’re working with someone who really is a bad guy, the routine is an act for them, too.  Humor can force them to “break character.” Once this happens, the tactic is useless!
  • Mutual emissary – this tactic is similar to the good-guy/bad guy tactic in that you are approached by a person who claims to be “on your side” or at least in a position to influence others to come around to your side. So how do we identify genuine good faith versus a tactic? Consider several criteria to evaluate the situation.  First, do you have an honest, good faith, positive relationship with this person and does this relationship predate the current discussion?  Second, if this person has surfaced apparently only for purposes of this discussion, is there a potential for a collateral benefit to them?  Is their relationship with the others obviously strong? If so, what benefit is it for them to help you get the others to compromise or to change their approach? Dealing with a “mutual emissary” as a tactic can involve:
    • Using the mutual emissary to gather information about the others, while being careful about what information you share.
    • Testing the good faith of the mutual emissary by seeing what they can do with a small aspect of the issue.
    • Simply politely declining their offer.

 I’ve identified ten additional tactics for our continuing discussion.  My next post will continue with discussions about several of these tactics.  Once we complete our discussion on individual tactics and some skills and approaches to address them, we will explore ways to manage an important discussion in ways that help you to avoid appearing to use tactics and that help you keep your discussion channeled and focused.

 BJM — January 20, 2014

© Bruce J. MacAllister, January 2014, all rights reserved.

About Bruce MacAllister

Bruce MacAllister is the founder and Executive Director of Business Excellence Solutions. He holds a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Chemistry and Biology and a Juris Doctorate degree. He has over thirty years of experience working with people in conflict, and training and coaching people through conflict situations. He works nationally and internationally with a wide variety of clients, including national departments, research and development organizations, institutions of higher education, non-profits, and individual businesspeople. He has been an ombudsman, executive level manager, project and program manager, trainer, and attorney. Click the "About Us" page to see his full biography. (http://bizexteam.com/index.php/about-us/.)
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