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Power of you

Tom Feinson

I was walking up the escalator on the left-hand-side as you should (I'm British you know), when I came across a guy stood, rooted to the spot, inactive, motionless, stationary, sprouting roots. My blood began to gently boil but being British (again) I did nothing about it and politely waited until he looked around before I delivered what was really quite a dirty look, definitely in the top third of dirty looks I give. Surely everyone knows that if you are travelling on an escalator it’s to the right to stand still and to the left to walk. Behavioural economists describe this as a norm, of which there are many, in this case an implicit norm i.e. not openly stated or formally codified but accepted socially through the day to day interactions of groups. Humans have created societal norms (Herd mentality) primarily as a positive approach to survival.

A cognitive bias is where an individual’s thinking deviates from what would be considered desirable against accepted norms. In this case, the offending party may not have been aware of the implicit norm, not considered it to be important or maybe was in active state of rebellion, they saw the world differently.

A negotiator is well served taking cognitive bias into consideration, or as we call it negotiating “Gates” because they can lead to a blinkered state of mind which makes our performance inflexible, self-limiting and one-dimensional.

Many people waste time trying to defend what others regard as indefensible. In commercial terms think of an aggressive Buyer attacking a Seller on delivery or quality performance. The seller may believe that their record is very good but that's not the point, the Buyer doesn't and will inevitably have their "facts" to support that view. We call this the "Me, Myself and I" Gate, a tendency for our perceptions to be biased in our favour. We assess the information available to us and decide upon an interpretation that suits and then look for a way to justify that interpretation to ourselves and critically to our opponent. Defending the indefensible is rarely a sensible approach.

When persuasion and our "facts" don't win the day, we typically become frustrated, which leads to another Gate known as competitive arousal where feelings of rivalry are increased leading to a need to win at all costs but generally meaning that the parties become polarised. Often people lose a little self control. In the court of public opinion arguing against the normative belief is unlikely to win the day. A trained negotiator knows that one of the most common "Gates" negotiators butt into is trying to win the argument rather than the objective. Whether you agree with it or not it's much more effective to acknowledge the other party has a legitimate point of view that needs to be taken into consideration.


If you would like some insights and tips on how to identify and manage your “Gates” download our eBook, The Power of You.

If you don’t, please at least stay to the right on escalators. Even if you're not British!


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