Who Are You, Anyway? – Disingenuous People in Negotiations

Not All is as it Seems…

This post 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 and truthful, many parents seemed to have skipped that lesson with their kids.

One of the most difficult yet important aspects of negotiations is to learn to detect inconsistencies or lies in other people’s accounts of the conflict. It’s difficult because most of us come from a place of relatively 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 — and they know it. Worse yet, they don’t care to change. They will defend their judgment and position mightily once you call their bluff. These people maintain their dysfunctional persona even in what we might call “normal” day-to-day interactions. They must “win” at all costs, even in unimportant exchanges, so that they can feel better than you or me.

A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing?

Perhaps you’ve heard the expression: “Who you are speaks so loudly that I can’t hear what you’re saying.” I confess it had little meaning for me until I began to observe others’ behaviors and words while comparing such to their actions or their history.

Be aware that not everyone you  encounter cares about principled  negotiations or honesty.

There are people walking around who will espouse one thing with a perfectly honest face while their body language, energy, or actions go against 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.

“When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.” –Maya Angelou

In my mediation practice, and to a lesser extent in my law practice, I have met and have had to interact these people. I invariably felt the same reactions to each of them, regardless of gender, age, or situational environment.

The point of this is not to necessarily judge others but to explain that sometimes all is not what it seems. If you encounter such a situation — especially in conflict resolution or negotiation settings — don’t tell yourself that you’re imagining this dynamic. Be aware that not everyone you encounter cares about principled negotiations or honesty. Furthermore, not everyone has good will toward others.

The Moral of the Story

The moral of this story (or in this case blog posting) is to focus on your purpose and your goals in negotiations and conflict settings. Remember that not everyone is going to be honest and forthcoming with you and it’s your job as a mediator or negotiator to tease the truth from the fiction. Here are some more tips to help you get to the truth:

  • Have all of your fact-based 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.

In the end, the unfortunate fact of the matter is that some people are simply not what they seem or what they present themselves as.

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