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Incompatible

Published: Aug 11 , 2016
Author: Alan Smith


My wife is a very reasonable woman. Or so she tells me.

No, she actually is. We have been married for over 30 years and she has put up with me for a start. To be honest its not just me she is reasonable with. The kids always go to her for emotional support, (me if it’s cash or a lift), I rarely, if ever, see her anything other than calm and she runs a classroom as a primary school teacher with 18 excitable 7 year olds. You have to be big on inner calm.

But if you ever, and I suggest you really don’t, cross her, there is no coming back. The Rubicon you have traversed and all bridges have been turned to cinder.

Now there is a reason why I am sharing this with you, and it does have a point. 

Yesterday she told me she had an altercation with someone at school. This person had asked to meet with Jacky (my wife) on a particular day the following week, this was during the school holiday. My wife was incensed that she was being asked to interfere with her time off.

“But” I said “you had planned to go into school that day anyway”

“What has that got to do with it” she opined. “I’m not going in if she wants me to”

Now this is what psychologists call “incompatibility bias”, the assumption that one side’s interests are incompatible with the others. And it happens in negotiations all the time.

This bias is brilliantly explained in Negotiating Rationally by Max H Bazerman and Margaret A. Neale.

They highlight a piece of research conducted in America that asked groups of individuals to record how favourable an arms reduction policy would be to the U.S.

The same policy was revealed to all parties but in half it was suggested that the policy had been suggested by the American president, in the other half the Russian leader.

The big news is that the same policy was seen completely differently based on who had suggested it.  This suggests an inherent flaw in how we think.

If its good for them then it must be bad for us.

What preconceptions, likes and dislikes are you taking into your negotiations?  How is that effecting your deal making ability?

Get your inner calm out, it might be useful.

Alan Smith


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Alan Smith

About the author:

Alan Smith
My background is marketing and advertising. After graduating in Economics I entered the agency world to become, at 28, MD of London's largest independent below-the-line marketing provider.

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