Conflict or Negotiation: The Choice Before Us
In my many years of speaking and consulting work as a negotiation skills keynote speaker I cannot recall a time when I have encountered quite as many executive leaders and managers who thrive on conflict. I am not alone in this observation.
Our workplaces, in-person, hybrid or virtual, seem to have an abundance of anger, drama, outrage and over-the-top behaviors. Not surprising, psychologists call them high-conflict-people. They must “pile-on” others with their blame and anger and in the process, they love to annoy, demean and even gossip about others.
The problem is that like our co-workers who are on the self-centered side, high conflict people are not readily identifiable. In fact, people who thrive on anger, bullying and conflict can be downright “Sugar ‘n Spice” until they are crossed or feel threatened.
Full of Fears
Obviously, if an aggressive, passive-aggressive or high conflict person is present within your workplace, HR can properly and legally demand they walk out, the same way they walked-in. However, it is not so easy when we sit across a negotiating table from them (however we might define the negotiating table). True, we might refuse to listen to their drama, bluster or arrogance, but walking away from a high conflict person could result in the loss of an important supplier or service provider.
Another note of caution is that not every high-conflict person walks about ranting over this and that. In fact, psychologists tell us that those angry drama types are filled with fear and need large doses of comfort. It sounds counter-intuitive, but co-workers and vendors who may be the most obnoxious and conflicted, are often filled with fears of being lesser and incapable. They strike out, overtly or (usually) subtly, before they feel as though they will be struck. High conflict people often feel deceived by many around them, so that they turn everyone else into their targets.
Negotiate it away
Though Tanya Tarr’s Forbes magazine article was published back in 2017, her advice is as relevant now as then:
“Inviting your negotiation partner to help you generate solutions can be a way to harness design thinking in times of uncertainty. Just like asking ‘what would be better’, you are inviting the people you are in a discussion with to step into their leadership by solving the real problem, rather than just rehashing what is going wrong.”
In other words, instead of being a target for anger or a basis for conflict, when negotiating with a high conflict person, far better to get them on your side, include them and ask them how they would go about solving a problem, even your problem.
Negotiators always have the choice of elevating a conflict – which helps no one, or working together to solve issues. Those who thrive on conflict and those who hate conflict are often the same problem but different sides. Neither situation is desirable.
At some point, every negotiation must reach an equitable agreement. The best way to bring the high conflict type into the negotiation is to allow them to help find a solution. It empowers them and removes the target from you.
To contact Mike Hourigan, Negotiation Skills Motivational Speaker and Negotiation Skills Consultant, please call Mike today at (704) 875-3030 or fill out the contact form on this page.