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Finding common ground is the key

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in Leaders & Managers,Management Training

Whether negotiating a deal or arguing your point, it’s much more effective to emphasize whatever you have in common with your opponent than the differences.

Two examples:

1. British researchers examined the styles of 49 professional labor and contract negotiators over nine years. After identifying the most successful bargainers, the researchers combed their data for the factors that most distinguished excellent performers from average and poor ones.

One factor stood out: Superior practitioners spent 400 percent more time looking for common ground than their mediocre counterparts did.

2. When New England hospital directors met about the best way to structure a merger, deeply divided opinions plunged the session into argument.

Fearing that would destroy the merger, one board member bolted from the room. In less than a minute, he returned with a fire ax he’d pulled from a case in the corridor.

Ax in hand, the board member alluded to what was at stake: “We can take this to our own necks—like we’ve been doing so far—or we can use it to cut ourselves a dominant share of the market.”

An agreement emerged in short order.

— Adapted from “The Language of Persuasion,” Robert Cialdini, Harvard Management Update.

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