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When we decide we want or need something, and we set our sights on getting it, we place ourselves in the path of potential conflict with someone or something. Not everyone you deal with will know how to ask diagnostic questions or how to brainstorm and expand a conversation to engage in problem solving. Instead, you're bargaining partner may resort to contentious tactics in an attempt to hold their ground or keep as many of the pieces of the pie as possible.
It's important for you to learn and recognize these tactics, so you can either disengage, meet fire with fire, or change the game. A sampling of the contentious tactics are ingratiation, promises, shaming, and persuasive argumentation, all of these tactics are attempts to manipulate your bargaining partner, and here is what they look like in action. Ingratiation is getting what we want through charm or flattery or just because we're so darn likable.
In truth, this is a useful tactic and most appreciated when it's authentic. Promises is getting what you want now by agreeing to do something later. Again, this is a useful tactic, especially when it's employed for mutual gain, as opposed to a power-play. Shaming is much more common than we'd all like to admit. This tactic is expressing shock or disapproval about somebody's behavior, usually on moral grounds. Persuasive argumentation is the use of logic and reason to change somebody's behavior or position, or to prove how you're right and they're wrong, or to lower their expectations.
So do you disengage, meet fire with fire, or change the game? If you are in harm's way, disengage. For everything else, remember, every accusation is a cry for help, so here are a few ways to navigate contentious tactics and bring your leadership to bear. Focus on the problem, not the person. Not only will you avoid blame and insults, you will demonstrate how skilled and valuable you are. Reflect what you hear.
Like active listening, paraphrase what's been said but let your conversation partner know the impact of their words. Again, use diagnostic questions and brainstorm to help return to cooperation. Name the problem. After reflecting your partner's opinion or perspective, identify the underlying issue. Doing this often defuses the tension and brings people back to cooperation. Most of the contentious tactics are not inherently good or bad, they're survival tactics, and we've been using them for millions of years.
By recognizing them as they're happening, you'll be better prepared to pause, slow things down, and depersonalize the situation, then you can make more collaborative choices in the moment.
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