Because we all have a unique perspective on life negotiation and, by extension, compromise are crucial parts of all of our relationships with other people; see my previous article on Perspective which also describes the Parent-Adult-Child (PAC) model developed by Thomas A Harris which is referenced in this article. In my view, the key to successful negotiation is a clear, Adult (reality based) perception of the circumstances and of each person’s drivers, motivations and/or needs. This is as opposed to perceptions dominated by our Parent and/or Child (distorted reality or pure fantasy).
This doesn’t mean that we should ignore our Parent and/or Child; far from it. Our Adult cannot function effectively without input from both. In his book ‘Six Thinking Hats’ Edward de Bono (http://www.edwarddebono.com) describes a method of discussion that allows expression of all of the components of the PAC model…the Parent (Black Hat), the Adult (White, Yellow, Green and Blue Hats) and the Child (Red Hat). Read more about the ‘Six Thinking Hats’ at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Six_Thinking_Hats.
In another of his books, ‘How to Have a Beautiful Mind’, Edward espouses letting go of the need to be right; something I agree with wholeheartedly. He says:
“THE NEED TO BE RIGHT
This is very much tied up with the ego. An argument is a battle between egos. When you agree you seem to be submitting to the other point of view – so you lose. When you disagree you are asserting your ego and indicating that you may be superior. All this is reinforced by the emphasis on argument and debate in school and also in society, whether in government, the law courts or the media. In government, for instance, an opposition party will often seek to disagree with those in power, whatever the circumstances. Most people are now coming to see this as extremely silly.
If you insist on always winning an argument you end up with nothing more than you started with – except showing off your arguing ability. When you lose an argument you may well have gained a new point of view. Being right all the time is not the most important thing in the world and it is certainly not very beautiful.
A discussion should be a genuine attempt to explore a subject rather than a battle between competing egos.”
In my experience, the outcome of negotiation can be:
- I/We Win – You Lose (Child and/or Parent)
- I/We Lose – You Win (Parent)
- I/We Lose – You Lose (Child and/or Parent)
- I/We Win – You Win (Adult with Parent and/or Child input)
My view on these outcomes is as follows:
- Driven either by our Child or our Parent. When this outcome is driven by the Child it is evidenced by a desire to control through domination. This has resulted in phrases such as ‘big swinging dicks’, ‘slaughtering the other side’, ‘chewing them up and spitting them out’ etc. When driven by the Parent it is evidenced by a desire for external approval and influenced by such sage advice as “second is nowhere”, “the winner takes it all”, “winning is everything” etc.
- Driven by the Parent and evidenced by a desire to please. It is influenced by such sage advice as “the meek shall inherit the earth”, “always give of yourself”’, “turn the other cheek, “sacrifice is next to godliness” etc.
- Driven by either the Child or the Parent. When driven by the Child it is evidenced by a “if I’m/We’re suffering then you’re going to suffer with me/us” approach when losing and the consequent efforts to sabotage negotiations even at the risk of further detriment or harm to themself/selves – the classic ‘cutting off of the nose to spite the face’. When driven by the Parent the influencing sage advice is “if you’re going down, take as many of them down with you as you can” as opposed to surrendering or otherwise gracefully accepting defeat…in many cases to fight another day.
- This is the outcome I believe all negotiations should aspire to. It is driven by the Adult or Parent. When driven by the Adult it is based on a rational consideration of the, often irrational, input from our Parent and/or Child plus the prevailing external circumstances and a balanced consideration of what may happen in the future. Some of our greatest modern thinkers, such as Edward, have proposed extremely effective ways of negotiating that are very different from the traditional ‘You’re Wrong – I’m/We’re right’ approach. They favour a more objective, analytical approach such as the ‘parallel thinking’ method designed by Edward in 1985. As per the quote from Edward above, letting go of the need to be right is crucial in achieving Win-Win in negotiation. With reference to the book ‘I’m OK – You’re OK’ by Thomas (more information can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I’m_OK,_You’re_OK) I believe that this need to be right is a consequence of not being in the “I’m OK – You’re OK” state. This means we remain in the “I’m Not OK – You’re OK” state that we are in at birth and during the first few years of our lives or move to either one of “I’m Not OK – You’re Not OK” or “I’m OK – You’re Not OK” states. Ideally we should all move to the “I’m OK – You’re OK” state at some point during our lives and, consequently, be able to let go of the need to be right. Unfortunately not all of us complete the move to the “I’m OK – You’re OK” state – witness crusty old folk having a good old moan about how things are a lot worse than the old days! When driven by the Parent the influencing sage advice is “always play fair”; on the face of it this would appear to be the same as when driven by the Adult. However if driven only by the Parent fair play will be observed even when others are playing unfairly potentially leading to an underserved loss. The Adult will take the unfair play in to account and consequently engineer a fair Win-Win outcome.
In another of his books, ‘How to Have a Beautiful Mind’, Edward gives an example of ‘parallel thinking’ saying:
Imagine there are four people standing around a square building. Each person is facing a different side. Each person insists that what he or she sees is the proper view of the building. They argue via walkie-talkies.
In parallel thinking each person would walk round to one side of the building. They would now each describe what they saw. Then they would all walk around to another side of the building and again describe what they saw. The same procedure for the third side, and then the fourth side.
So, all parties look at the matter from the same point of view and describe what they see. In the end there has been a full exploration of the building (the matter being discussed).
For the method of work (Note from Yernasia: I think that this was meant to read “For the method to work”), it is essential that at any moment everyone is looking ‘in parallel’ in the same direction.”
In yet another of his books, ‘Textbook of Wisdom’, he says:
“Parallel thinking is the opposite of traditional adversarial thinking, where each statement has to be judged before being accepted. In adversarial thinking, the ‘contradiction’ is a very important and powerful tool. Both sides of a contradiction cannot be right. One or other must go. Parallel thinking allows both sides of the contradiction to be laid down in parallel without interfering with each other. Later on, in the design phase, things can be sorted out.
Parallel thinking removes at once the urge to instant judgement. You do not have to accept something as ‘right’ because you have not rejected it as ‘wrong’. You simply accept it ‘in parallel’. Sometimes you can accept it as ‘possibly’ but even when you cannot accept something as ‘possible’ you still accept it in parallel.
Husbands usually complain that wives take far too many clothes on holiday. Husbands say that wives should decide in advance exactly what is going to be needed and to reject what is not going to be needed. Husbands complain that wives take six outfits with them so they can have the ‘luxury’ of choice at the holiday destination. Parallel thinking is what the wives are doing. They take everything along and then make the choice only when it has to be made. The husbands’ thinking is more like the traditional Gang of Three (Note from Yernasia: see below for an Explanation of the Gang of Three from Edward’s website) thinking: accept or reject at this point before packing it.”
Explanation of the Gang of Three
Sourced from http://www.debonogroup.com/parallel_thinking.php
“Argument and Critical Thinking
To this day, Western culture depends on this type of thinking. In family arguments, in business discussions, in the law courts, and in governing assemblies, we use the thinking system of the Greeks, based on argument and critical thinking.
I sometimes refer to prominent philosophers of this day as the “gang of three.” Who were the famous Greek gang of three, and how did they form the thinking habits of Western culture?
The Gang of Three Socrates (469-399 B.C.)
Socrates was trained as a “sophist.” Sophists were people who played with words and showed how careful choice of words could lead you to almost any conclusion you wanted. Socrates was interested in challenging people’s thinking and, indeed, getting them to think at all instead of just taking things for granted. He wanted people to examine what they meant when they said something. He was not concerned with building things up or making things happen.
From Socrates we get the great emphasis on argument and critical thinking. Socrates chose to make argument the main thinking tool. Within argument, there was to be critical thinking: Why do you say that? What do you mean by that?
Plato (c. 427-348 B.C.)
Plato is generally held to be the father of Western philosophy. He is best-known for his famous analogy of the cave. Suppose someone is bound up so that the person cannot turn around but can only look at the back wall of the cave. There is a fire at the mouth of the cave. If someone comes into the cave, then the bound person cannot see the newcomer directly but can only see the shadow cast by the fire on the back wall of the cave. So as we go through life, we cannot see truth and reality but only “shadows” of these. If we try hard enough and listen to philosophers, then perhaps we can get a glimpse of the truth. From Plato we get the notion that there is the “truth” somewhere but that we have to search for it to find it. The way to search for the truth is to use critical thinking to attack what is untrue.
Aristotle (384-322 B.C.)
Aristotle was the pupil of Plato and the tutor of Alexander the Great. Aristotle was a very practical person. He developed the notion of “categories,” which are really definitions. So you might have a definition of a “chair” or a “table.” When you come across a piece of furniture, you have to judge whether that piece of furniture fits the definition of a chair. If it does fit, you say it is a chair. The object cannot both be a chair and not be a chair at the same time. That would be a “contradiction.” On the basis of his categories and the avoidance of contradiction, Aristotle developed the sort of logic we still use today (based largely on “is” and “is not”). From Aristotle we get a type of logic based on identity and non-identity, on inclusion and exclusion.”
…and in summary Edward says:
“Parallel thinking is the opposite of traditional adversarial thinking. Instead of judgement, both sides are laid down in parallel and then a way forward is designed.”
Put simply, I think he is saying that we should listen to and understand others points of view and be prepared to explain clearly and quietly our points of view. This, I believe, is the basis of effective negotiation.
Stay strong and serene.