What Growing the Pie is Really About

I’ve been busy writing and crowdsourcing diabolical definitions for my latest book, The Devil’s Dictionary of Work Life & Commerce. Art Markman, my guest for the 14thepisode of my podcast, gave this entry for NEGOTIATIONS: “A dignified discussion held by people dividing the pie, all of whom channel their inner five-year-old because deep down everyone wants the whole pie.”

Guess what! In wanting the whole pie, we blow the deal, and negotiations expert Leigh Thompson knows why and also what the better options are. First, the shortcomings consist of 1) being either soft as pudding and avoiding conflict or being tough as nails and pounding our fists to get as much of the existing pie as possible; 2) taking the even-steven route and dividing the pie 50/50%; and/or 3) making compromises because neither party explores where mutually advantageous agreements might be realized.

What’s a better outcome? The answer is growing the pie by finding the sweet spot(s) where trust can built up by not asking the other party to sacrifice. Instead, find out where one party’s gain isn’t actually the other party’s loss. Thompson’s book covers 41 “hacks” to avoid the “traps” negotiators typically fall into. Her favorite is The Dessert Tray, i.e., offering the other party an array of options of equal value as far as the first party is concerned and learning from that hack where the real opportunities for a win/win reside.

Negotiating at Home, at Work, and Virtually

Released today: episode #31 of “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight,” featuring Leigh Thompson, the author of Negotiating the Sweet Spot: The Art of Leaving Nothing on the Table. Listen to the clip below and click on the image to get to the new episode.

Thompson is a Professor of Dispute Resolution and Organizations at the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University. This is the latest of her 10 best-selling books. The episode covers the differences between scripted and unscripted negotiations and how expressing disappointment, rather than showing anger, helps make negotiations turn into a success.

Dan Hill, PhD, is the president of Sensory Logic, Inc.

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.