Who Are You, Anyway? – Disingenuous People in Negotiations

All is Not as it May Seem

This posting is about the false fronts, hidden agendas and/or secret motivations that others may possess and try to use — to your detriment — in negotiations or conflict settings. Contrary to what our parents told us about being honest, upfront and truthful, many persons’ parents skipped that lesson with their kids… apparently. I think that one of the most difficult, yet important aspects of negotiations is to learn to detect, (sometimes it’s “just” your gut instinct), the inconsistency or falseness in the other person. It’s difficult, I sincerely hope, because most of us come from a place of relative good will toward others, even in a competitive negotiation session. But not all of us. In fact, some people are truly wolves in sheep’s clothing, as the saying goes. And they know it. And they don’t care to change: they will defend their judgment and position mightily once you call their bluff. And these people maintain their dysfunctional persona even in what we might call “normal” day-to-day interactions. These people must “win” at all costs, even in unimportant exchanges, so that they can feel better than you … or me.

Who You are Speaks so Loudly I Cannot Hear what You’re Saying

Have you ever heard that expression? I confess it had little meaning for me until I began to observe, in earnest, others’ behaviors and words, while comparing such to their actions or their history. There are people walking around who will espouse one thing with a perfectly honest face, while their body language, energy or actions belie and counter what they’ve said. You’ve met some, I’m sure. They’re the ones that you encounter and try to believe or understand, but something inside of you is screaming that you’re a fool if you buy into their story. Sometimes your insides are telling you just to get away — as fast as possible.

In my mediation practice, and to a lesser extent in my law practice, I have met and have had to experience these people. As I write this, I remember some of their faces that pass through my mind’s eye. I invariably felt the same reactions to each of them, regardless of gender, age or situational environment: first, I took a long, hot shower (as soon as possible) to clear my energy, and second, I spent some time ruminating about how they could wander/stumble through life like that.

The point of this is not to judge others, necessarily, but to show that sometimes, all is not what it seems. If you encounter such a situation, especially in conflict resolution or negotiation settings, please don’t tell yourself that you’re imagining this dynamic. Be aware that not everyone you will encounter cares about principled negotiations or even honesty. And not everyone has good will toward others. John Adams said that “All governments depend upon the good will of the people”. But not all people have good will. Perhaps that’s why government is flawed.

The Moral of This Posting is….

Focus on your purpose and your goals in negotiations and conflict settings. Have all of your factual research at your fingertips. As often as possible, be of good will. Be generous with what you have (and can) share. Ask lots of questions and endeavor to build solid rapport with the other. Have faith in positive outcomes, but do not be naive. Listen to your instincts. When in doubt, always follow your instincts. The unfortunate fact is that some people are simply not what they seem.





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