Argument Dilution - Auckland Transport Way

Published: Jul 24 , 2014
Author: Mark Simpson

The media has discovered that Council controlled Auckland Transport is using special shuttles to move staff around Auckland – apparently because it’s faster than the public transport they provide for the rest of us.

When challenged Auckland Transport shot themselves in the foot and provided us with a beautiful example of argument dilution.

Initially, Auckland Transport highlighted the benefits of the shuttles as – being able to cut down the size of its car fleet and improve “business efficiency”. A good sound reason for trialling the shuttle businesses.

But then their representative also tried to justify by stating that the train timetables don’t always suit and take too long!  To quote:

“Public transport is also an option used by many staff to travel to meeting but the timings of the trains don’t always suit”

“The train takes 45 minutes where-as the shuttle, door to door, is 20 to 25 minutes.”

The shuttle driver is then quoted as saying that he frequently makes what is scheduled as a 42-45 minute journey in 20 minutes, observing that he catches and passes the recently departed public bus “every single day”

Councillor Chris Darby is quoted as saying Auckland Council had yet to develop a workplace transport plan which understood staff needs and found ways to meet them.

As Homer Simpson would say “DUH!”

As anyone that’s been through the Scotwork Advancing Negotiation Skills course would know this is a classic example of Argument Dilution. The rationalisation of a large fleet of vehicles following the formation of the Supercity council is a good sound commercial reason for using the shuttle buses – full stop.

There is usually a good reason for doing something or not doing it. Often we tell the other party the reason. We then think of another reason and give that as well. Then a third reason occurs to us and we add that for good measure. The problem is that each reason is weaker than the one which went before and gradually the original compelling argument is diluted.

As a negotiator faced with a good strong argument ask the other party if there are any other reasons. Most people will not be able to resist the temptation to give two or three more, each weaker than the last. Eventually the arguments can become so feeble as to be self-defeating.

If you have a reason for doing something give it, and shut up!

Mark Simpson, Scotwork New Zealand


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