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“To Negotiate Successfully … Consider Ethnicity and Gender” by Guest author Greg Williams

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“To Negotiate Successfully … Consider Ethnicity and Gender” by Guest author Greg Williams

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obama-drinks-a-beer-thumb-340x430When negotiating does ethnicity and gender matter? You betcha! When you negotiate, control your ego, be aware of your environment, and be very cognizant of the influence that ethnicity and gender have on the participants involved in the negotiation.  A prominent black professor of a prominent university was arrested. His arrest occurred as the result of a neighbor summoning the police after she thought, inaccurately, that he was breaking into what turned out to be his own home. Once the police arrived, they requested the professor produce identification proving he resided at the residence. In the discussion, a white police officer and the black professor exchanged negative words and the situation quickly escalated into what became a national discourse on race relations. The president of the United States weighed in, which escalated the affair to higher heights.  
      From a negotiation perspective, we can glean many lessons from this circumstance.
      1.    During the encounter, it was reported that the professor asked the police officer, “Do you know who I am?” The implication was that the professor was someone of prominence and thus the police officer should be aware with whom he was dealing and act accordingly. Upon hearing this, along with some other exchanges of negative dialogue, the police officer became incensed, which caused the situation to escalate.
       * Although it may be difficult when negotiating, don’t allow the lack of control of your emotions, or that of the other negotiator, to take the negotiation in a direction that’s not beneficial.
      Pat’s note: I have experienced this escalation of emotion on rare occasions when discussing an attorney’s dissatisfaction with services provided by one of our experts.  The discussion can quickly become clouded with emotion, which prevents any meaningful communication on the issue or resolution of dissatisfaction. Also note that you may be thrust into the middle of an emotional negotiation without any forewarning.
     2.    The two individuals that initiated this situation were of different ethnicities.
      *Before and during negotiations, consider the background of the person with whom you’re negotiating and assess how that difference might cause that person to interact with you and you with him, in the negotiation. This is also true when there’s a gender difference between two negotiators.
      3.    The police officer felt compelled to exude his authority and thus arrested the professor, even though the professor had displayed proof that he resided at the location.  In the heat of a negotiation, be mindful when the negotiation begins to spiral out of control. If you sense it quickly enough, call a time out before it goes too far. 
       Pat’s note: In those rare cases when an attorney’s emotion prevented me from being able to have meaningful dialogue, we have agreed to disagree. I call the expert and review the invoice before talking to the attorney again. Then we’re both ready to negotiate. 
      4.    The president of the United States commented on the situation, which invoked ‘other opinions’ that ratcheted the situation higher.
      * Always be aware of the effects that outside influences can have on a negotiation. In the planning stages of the negotiation, try to anticipate what outside influences you might encounter and consider how you might address them.
      Greg’s note – To defuse the situation, the president invited the main participants to the White House for a beer. They came. 
      Sometimes when negotiating, things can occur so quickly that you don’t have time for regrets of the past, or fear of the future. That can be dangerous! Always seek to control yourself and to the degree that you can, the other negotiator. You’ll have less stress in the negotiation. The negotiation will flow smoother. There’ll be less combativeness in the negotiation … and everything will be right with the world.
 The Negotiation Tips Are …
·       Always be aware of the impact an outside influence can have on a negotiation.
·       In life, people see the world through the lens by which they’ve come to view it. When negotiating, metaphorically view their expectations through their lens.
·       When you encounter negativity in a negotiation, call a time out to get things back on track. Consider how you might do so in an environment that is nonthreatening and one that is mutually neutral to all parties involved.

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