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Eureka: Rough negotiations
by Jay Gutman
2018-07-25 08:46:42
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What they teach you in business school is things like “getting to yes” and other negotiation techniques. Those techniques are based on one simple fallacy: both negotiating sides are telling the truth. Whether you go shopping at the market, do a business negotiation or a political negotiation, business school theory assumes that side a and side b are telling the truth.

What's the truth about my twenty plus years negotiating experience: damn it are so many lies told, and damn it do some people like to stick to their lies. So I'll briefly mention my experience negotiating with households, businesses, political organizations and the non-for-profit sector.

nego0001Negotiating with households

Let me tell you a secret. People don't divorce because of personality differences. They don't divorce over money issues. In some cases, they don't even divorce over infidelity issues. What's the number one, number two, number three, number four and number n cause of divorce. Lies, more lies, even more lies and mendacity.

I've met with many couples, and my couple used to work that way too. They lie about where they spend their money. They lie about where they spend their weekends. They lie about being stuck at work. They lie about their financial status. They lie about what their families are up to. They lie about what their friends are up to. They lie about liking people and disliking people. They lie about what people told them, or people told them to tell you.

And when you discover the truth, wait for it, you get denial. They also lie about lying. All this leads to people doubting whether there's any truth left in their discourse.

When I visit couples, I can tell the difference between those who tell each other the truth and those who lie to each other. Those who tell the truth to each other can finish each other's stories. Those who lie to each other, well, one person's telling one story and the other person can't really follow the story, and wouldn't know how to finish the story.

Negotiating with businesses

Here at Ovi, I've given lots of business advice. My reasons for doing so is simple. If you sign a business contract based on lies, your business adventure is not going to end well.

I've worked with businesses who were pathological liars. They would invite people for business meetings and would lie about the agenda items of the meeting, would lie about their products, would lie about their ability to deliver the product. Let me vaguely say that on one side of the table were Middle Easterners or Latin Americans who were naive, and on the other side of the table dishonest Europeans or East Asians. Because Middle Easterners or Latin Americans thought that everything was going great in Europe or East Asia, they believed every word those negotiators said.

Some businesses lie to their staff, lie about their products, lie about the quality of their product, lie about safety, hygiene and security of their product, lie about the durability of their product and lie about pretty much everything else. In the end you end up with a product you did not ask for, and that's where the trouble begins.

Negotiations in politics

I remember negotiating about one specific country over environmental issues. “We have no environmental problems; we are leaders in the global environment.” The problem is that satellite imagery and all indicators seemed to indicate that they had very high pollution levels and that parts of their country were so polluted even animals didn't venture there.

Some governments like to lie about their achievements, their security record, their economic record, their legal record, their business friendliness and everything else.

The Ten Commandments for catching liars at the global scale

1- Don't believe the crap statistics tell you. A lot of countries hand in faulty statistics, so you might read that one country is friendly to business or that another has a great human rights record. Look at statistics with a healthy dose of skepticism.

2- Don't believe the crap people tell you about their country. We all have great countries which are very business friendly and where it's easy to make money. I remember several guys trying to convince me to import or export products from their country. I know how it really works. I know about all the changes in regulations and all the bribes and all that.

3- Be skeptical about the future. People like to announce changes that never come. A lot of times they will try to use you in the present with the promise of a future reward, and that reward never comes.

4- Be skeptical about the past. Some people like to say that everything was great in the past and like to glorify stories of the past. But if you investigate, you find out the past isn't that glorious.

5- Some liars are very stubborn. And aggressively stubborn. You could show them a building and they will go like “what building? I see no building? You are hallucinating! You need to see a psychiatrist!”

6- Some liars will put you in an inferior position or demote you so they can stay ahead. They'll say things like “you're not smart” or “you are a slow learner” or “I don't think you understand much of anything” or “I think you're too slow” or anything insulting to validate their lies.

7- Some liars completely reinvent reality. I remember ending up in Sejong, which is in many ways a concentration camp, and asking people where we could find food. I was told that was for me to answer that question. One thing they don't tell you about concentration camps is that everyone tells lies to get ahead. Despite being a concentration camp, a lot of the detainees would be in complete denial and say “this is a great place to live!” I have not read Primo Levi or Elie Wiesel enough times.

8- Some people use threats so that you believe their lies. They'll be like “you either believe my lies, or face the consequences.”

9- Silence or feigning sickness is one way people use to avoid facing their own lies. They lie, excessively, but then tell you that they are sick or remain silent for long periods of time so you can focus on the silence or illness rather than the lies.

10- The way I face liars: by telling them the truth, again and again and again, especially if they are a direct threat. Some people like to call me the “lie detector” but there are three ways I deal with lies. If it's the small white lies we all tell I just nod and say OK. If the lie is a bit of a threat, I try to correct the lie. If the lie is compulsive and aggressive and directly threatens me, I repeat the truth with no end in sight.

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