Negotiation Like a Kung Fu Master: Duck!

duck

It is good not to get hit.

If someone punches at a kung fu master, the master has many choices.  He can block the punch, redirect it so its energy is harmlessly dissipated, strike back at the same time he is protecting himself, trap the punch momentarily while he lashes out with a kick, lock the puncher’s elbow, wrist or shoulder joint in order to immobilize and control him or even use the energy of the punch to throw the puncher across the room.  He can also be somewhere else when the punch arrives, a so-called “yin” block. There is no shame or cowardice in not taking a blow.  It is OK to duck if you know your next step.  As long as the punch does not reach you, you are safe.

For the negotiator, the situation dictates the nature and level of your response. Sometimes it is better not to engage.  For instance:

  • Faced with a situation in which you are eventually going to lose, it may be better to postpone conflict for as long as possible.
  • When someone is trying to bait you by engaging in personal attacks or otherwise pushing your personal or organizational buttons, it may be better to ignore the behavior than to ramp things up.
  • When your counterparty is agitated, it may be better to let him tire himself out or become more annoyed rather than trying to negotiate with him in that state.
  • When your counterparty is a moving target, it may be better to let him settle into a position before you respond.
  • When your counterparty is not in a strong enough position to do damage or merit a response, it may be the best use of resources just to keep an eye on the situation.
  • When you are waiting for external circumstances to turn more favorable, it may be better for you to postpone an exchange.

So, where does that leave our fearless negotiator? After avoiding conflict, does he stand his ground? Does he strike angrily at his counterparty?  Does he do like Sir Robin in the movie Monte Python and the Holy Grail:

“Brave, brave Sir Robin/Bravely ran away/Away, away, away he ran/Oh, brave Sir Robin!/When danger reared its ugly head/He bravely turned his tail and fled/Yes, brave Sir Robin turned about/And gallantly he chickened out ….”

The answer is easy.  Use the time in which you have not engaged to position yourself to respond.  Whether you are thinking about the best response, marshaling organizational assets, dealing with internal organizational politics, letting your counterparty dig himself a hole or even preparing a better escape hatch, you may be able to improve your negotiating position for the next round of talks.

It is a mistake to confuse doing nothing with being ineffectual.  Sometimes, stepping out of the way is the best thing you can do.

Advertisements

About Jeffrey FInk

In my day job, I'm a lawyer, mediator, arbitrator and advisor in Wellesley, Massachusetts with clients locally and from around the world. I advise clients about general business matters, act as outside general counsel to several companies and counsel clients in more contentious situations. Wearing a different hat, as a mediator, Collaborative lawyer and ADR professional I help clients resolve a wide range of business and family disputes. I've also studied a number of styles of martial arts and have a second degree black belt in kung fu.

Posted on December 13, 2013, in Kung Fu Strategies and Tactics, Negotiation and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: