Who Are You Negotiating With?

Negotiating with owl-eyed Mitch McConnel

U.S. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is known as The Grim Reaper. The guy made headlines recently for suggesting that states hit hard by Covid-19 declare bankruptcy rather than look to Washington, D.C. for aid. The opposition had a field day. States can’t legally run deficits. Bond markets would suffer. More schoolteachers and police officers will be furloughed, if he has his way. Hypocrisy is alive and well thanks to McConnell securing budget-busting tax cuts in 2017 for the rich but now, in a crisis, he denounces the idea of “borrowing money from future generations.”

True. True. True, and, yes, audaciously true! But hypocrisy doesn’t change the fact that Democratic leaders must still negotiate with The Grim Reaper. It happens to all of us; consumers and everyone in business must haggle with a difficult person from time-to-time. 

In those unwelcome moments, size up your opponent. In McConnell’s case, he’s like an owl given his characteristically alert, on-guard big-eyed look. Clue #1 is that McConnell won’t let anything slip by him. Clue #2 is that he frowns more often than he smiles. He’ll accept opprobrium on behalf of getting his partisan way. Nobody needs to be happy in the process. Finally, clue #3 is how often McConnell’s chin thrusts upwards in a sign of sadness, anger and disgust. There’s a proud defiance to McConnell, most evident in how he refused to even give Barack Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland a hearing. So, how do you negotiate with somebody like McConnell? Turn the person’s strength into a weakness. How are owls most vulnerable? They’re fiercely territorial by instinct and can get in foolish fights with fellow owls even when no food or mates are involved. Watch a troublesome opponent over-reach and then let their self-inflicted wounds make them pull back to an acceptable compromise.