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Looking for Logic: Perseverance and Perplexing Negotiations

By JemmaBlythe Alexander Shelton-Spurr (JB Shelton)

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We think and reason to draw conclusions of truth. Logic is both a science and an art. Emotions and business intertwine. One negotiator’s truth can differ substantially from another’s.


My newspaper features editor is a fanatical organizer. Her favorite British Punch magazine cartoon shows a butler in an elegant living room, holding a vase with #7 on its base; a coffee table has a matching stenciled #7. Can we be logical without being organized? Can we be logical and organized without having a sense of humor? No on both counts.

I Think?

My philosophy prof’s favorite cartoon pictures a soul-searching fellow who inspires quests for logic with six words: I think; therefore I am; I think?

We think and persevere in creatively researched, dynamically contemplated, impeccably detailed proposals. We need to be mindful of hubris: stubborn false pride makes us certain we’re right when we’re wrong. Be gentle with ourselves: It’s difficult to admit the seemingly logical path we’ve mapped has mine fields on the right, swamps to the left and a surprise cliff past those bushes.


Likely your opponent is not seeking to puzzle or bewilder you with his logic, any more than you are trying to purposefully perplex him. Complications, uncertainty and confusion never add to a smooth negotiation.

A common human denominator is experience with home renovations. We, as logical negotiators, seek to take control. We research options from style advice to consumer quality and get recommendations for products and service providers. We think about our homes-sweet-homes getting homier and sweeter. We visualize results we can live with joyfully.

Negotiations essential to renewing our abodes fit perfectly into the looking-for-logic model. Persevering isn’t always in our best interests. However, because we take our homes personally and involve our emotions, logic may quickly go out the windows. Our personal mindsets complicate perplexing matters when we disagree with contractors and trades folk.

Lost in Translation

We must confirm that we are speaking the same language. I’m not referring to being lost in translation. The words and phrases we use — spoken and written –can easily be misunderstood. The only contract with more potential problems than oral agreements are those lacking specifics or including clauses subject to misinterpretation.

Does our contract specify a step-by-step timeframe for all aspects of the renovations? Is there a penalty clause if our contractor doesn’t perform as promised? When our contractor’s crew is knocking the place to bits at seven a.m., do we wander around the kitchen, pretending to be thankful they showed up at all?

It is essential to take the emotion out of our actions. Being civilized and polite ought not to prevent us from communicating assertively to the contractor who signed on the bottom line.

We become dissatisfied with many aspects of the renovations. We rationalize about why not to cancel the contract and seek a more competent contractor. Our attempts to negotiate further with the contractor fail.

The phrase, “Good money after bad” has merit. Our personal lives and loved ones are more important than completing the guestroom in a haze of anger and bitterness. Letting go and starting over will provide a sense of we’re-not-victims relief. We are logical negotiators who have learned from our experiences to negotiate more effectively next time.

Detailed Agenda

It’s reasonable to think we logical negotiators are more business oriented than emotionally focused. We create agenda to detail when and where a meeting is scheduled, timed for each speaker’s allotted minutes. The Q&A period precedes follow-up assignments with career consequences for nonperformance.

The logical negotiator, craving an on-target and productive meeting, may banish beverages, snacks and, by gosh, chairs from the room. A standing meeting of hungry and thirsty folks may not be good for morale, but accomplishes more in less time.


When we are certain logic, perseverance and understanding of perplexing negotiations are under our control, we take action with faith in ourselves as logical negotiators. Take to heart my attorney’s favorite cartoon, the classic New Yorker magazine’s business executive responding to an appointment request, “Never. Is never good for you?”

JB Shelton Photo
JemmaBlythe Alexander Shelton-Spurr (JB Shelton) is a journalist based in Raleigh and Oxford, NC. She writes about children growing up and grownups reinventing themselves. JB teaches Professional Negotiating Skills: Transforming Life’s Challenges into Win-Win Results at Duke University in Durham, NC.  Angel in Your Mirror: Musings from the Curly Mind of JB Shelton-Spurr is available on Reach her by e-mail at [email protected].

Copyright ©2013 JemmaBlythe Alexander Shelton-Spurr
Copyright ©   2013  The Negotiator Magazine
The Negotiator Magazine  May 2013