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Rudeness is a Substitute for Negotiating Proficiency

By Charles B. Craver

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When I practiced law in San Francisco many years ago, I do not recall a single encounter with a rude attorney. When we interacted with each other, we would often engage in tough bargaining or competitive litigation, but never personally offensive behavior. Since that time, I have been a law professor teaching negotiation skills to students – and to attorneys and business persons throughout the United States and in other countries. I have also served as a labor arbitrator and an employment law mediator. It has become clear to me over the past two decades that Americans in general – and legal practitioners and business representatives in particular – have become less pleasant toward one another.

At continuing education programs I conduct, I am regularly told stories about rude and offensive negotiators. I even encounter such conduct occasionally when I mediate labor and employment law cases. Other mediators have talked about similarly offensive behavior they have experienced. Do individuals who employ such tactics enhance or undermine their bargaining efforts?

There are certainly occasions where rude and combative negotiating behavior may advance the interests of the offensive participants. If they are dealing with unskilled opponents who do not know how to counter such tactics and who feel great pressure to reach agreements, those persons may give in to such adversaries simply to end the process. On the other hand, when people employ such offensive tactics against skilled bargainers, they significantly increase the likelihood that no agreements will be achieved.

Individuals knowledgeable about the bargaining process would recognize from books like William Ury’s Getting Past No that they should employ attitudinal bargaining to counteract such behavior. They should politely, but forcefully, indicate that such actions would undermine – rather than advance – the bargaining process. If such statements did not diminish the other side’s offensive tactics, they might suggest a hiatus in the discussions or even a substitution of other persons to conduct the talks.

Rudeness is a Substitute for Negotiating Proficiency By Charles B. Craver


Copyright © 2014 Charles B. Craver
Copyright ©   2014  The Negotiator Magazine
The Negotiator Magazine  February 2014