The Negotiator Magazine

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Rightness, Lies and Truth: Which is the Best Choice in Negotiation?

Radu Inonescu (Romania)

How many times do we ask ourselves: which is the best option in negotiation? Should I sustain my point of view because I am right and everybody will see it? Should I lie in order to manipulate others because this way I get what I need? Should I say the truth because in this way I define my character and build my image?

Lord Kelvin said: "Every person has [their] own horizon of ideas, views and opinions. It happens sometimes that this horizon starts to near. And as it nears, it's getting smaller and smaller until it becomes a point. At that moment the person is saying: this is my point of view!"

People tend to sustain: "My point of view is the right one. Rightness is on my side." "So what," can be a quick answer. Others do not care if positions are right or not, presuming that they will take our views into consideration. If these people also think that they are right, they may not even listen to others. In this situation what usually happens is that each party tries to impose their point of view. This is the moment when a positional negotiation starts. The parties start digging trenches for defending their own position and attacking the other's position and, as the battle becomes more intensive, the trenches become deeper and harder to get out of them.

"Objective criteria" are used to support our points of view. I have a problem with the term "objective". What on the earth, is objective? As an extreme appreciation, it means nothing. But in negotiation we can consider "objective criteria" any criteria that the parties agree to use or are obliged to reference. Law can be an example of "objective criteria". Unfortunately, we all know that a trial is based on interpreting the law. Both the prosecution and the defense are doing just that in presenting their cases.

It is alright to use criteria. Why? Because, we have to communicate to others our opinions and we need to support them. And we have to understand their view. The mistake appears when we try to impose our appreciations on others. This leads us nowhere in the negotiation process and only produces confrontation.

If we go on with the confrontation we will lose energy in the battle. Our energy is limited. The time and energy we lose in fighting, we can not use in problem-solving. We miss opportunities. More than this, continuing confrontation leads us to imagine problems: "If I leave my position, I will look weak, incapable or unserious. So I have to defend it!"

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January 2005