We’ve all been there at one time or another – the logical conversation that suddenly turns emotional. The irrational leader’s flame consumes everything in its path, the spoken word oxygen that feeds the fire into a frenzied tempest of damage and destruction. Dramatic enough for you? You get the point. And whether it involves negotiating a raise, a project, what you’re having for dinner, a movie choice or a business relationship, it helps to have a few pointers to help you get through those unexpectedly difficult times.
The Latz Negotiation Institute wrote a piece in December of 2000 entitled, Dealing With the Irrational, Real or Posed, Is Tough. The article argues that one of the most critical (and difficult) pieces to assess is whether the other party is truly irrational or simply trying to appear irrational. So how does one diagnose truth versus fiction?
“First, take a deep breath. This is not your garden-variety negotiation and it will require you to dig deeper than usual into your negotiation toolbox…. Then closely observe and evaluate the sincerity of your counter-party’s allegedly irrational actions. Listen carefully to what that person is telling you – verbally and nonverbally. Are their actions consistently irrational, or is their irrational behavior limited to certain instances or episodic in nature? The more limited and inconsistent the irrational behavior, the more likely it’s a ploy.”
And if they are faking their irrationality?
“Our natural response? Give him whatever he wants. He’s crazy, and he’s got his finger on the nuclear trigger. We can’t take the chance that he’ll push it, so we better concede. [Instead] find an opportunity to openly point out our knowledge of their acting talents. Then treat them like any other rational but tricky negotiation opponent.”
But what if they are truly irrational?
“Explore the reasons underlying their irrational behavior. Find out why they’re so consumed with anger that they can’t listen to reason. Perhaps it’s a personality conflict. Or perhaps an unrelated event has put them into this temporary state of mind… If it’s an emotional outburst or related to a recent traumatic event, take a break. Given sufficient time, individuals often will become more reasoned and reasonable. And if none of this works, re-evaluate your leverage and your alternative to this agreement. How much do you really need or want an agreement with an irrational individual? After all, terminating the negotiation may be your only rational course of action.”
All excellent guidance. Beyond Latz’ advice, look to organizations such as Vantage Partners to help with your most complex, global negotiations. Keep your cool, and let’s keep the conversation going.