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Negotiating the divide

There's a good article by Robert Cialdini in HBS Working Knowledge: Leadership called "What Lovers Tell Us About Persuasion". [Thanks to Scott Moore for a) his interesting post and b) the pointer].

In romantic relationships, there are broadly three types of negotiating techniques: do-this-or-else, I'm-rational-so-agree-with-me, and we-are-a-couple-and-so. Of these types, by far the most successful is the last, where one of the pair will start the discussion by affirming the relationship. As Cialdini puts it,

Back in the 1960s, the brilliant media commentator Marshall McLuhan observed that often in the realm of mass communication, "the medium is the message." I'm willing to claim that often, in the realm of social influence, the relationship is the message.
And he goes on to make the (sensible) point this we-are-a-couple-and-so approach is successful not just in romantic relationships, but in relationships full stop.

A few other things caught my eye:

1. Analysis is physically easier than synthesis.

"In all manner of comparisons, people are more ready to search for and register separations than connections. It's so for basic dimensions such as the weight and size of physical objects: observers are more attuned to differences than they are to commonalities (Olson and Janes, 2002). And, it's so for more social dimensions, such as the presence or absence of existing unities among interacting parties."
"rival negotiators failed to identify shared interests or goals 50 percent of the time - even when those commonalities were real, present, and waiting to be tapped (Thompson and Hrebec, 1996)"
We are, it seems, hardwired to analyse, even though the benefits are moot.

2. Old news helps

"the relationship-raising route to persuasion is that it provides nothing that isn't already known. Typically, both parties well understand that they're in a relationship. But that implication-laden piece of information can easily drop from the top of consciousness when other considerations vie for the same space."
Our focus on "facts" in hard times seems to often be skewed (Mr Gradgrind). It's is no bad thing to go for the rational approach, but one of the facts that you should attend to, as a rational, is that you (or your ideas) are in a relationship. Forgetting that is "illogical".

3. Just in time relationships

"The thing that is most likely to guide a person's behavioral decisions isn't the most potent or familiar or instructive aspect of the whole situation; rather, it's the one that is most prominent in consciousness at the time of the decision."
The more, er, "we" think about it, the more important this seems to be. There's a bundle of work being done on getting people the right information at the right time in the right way, but this information tends to be skewed towards "facts", and skewed towards analysis - that is, discrete chunks of content, broken down and packaged for you. Given the tendency for our decisions to be most affected by what is uppermost in our minds at the time of decision, this might need to be unskewed a little.

We might need just-in-time relationship reminders too. It's not natural for us to see commonality, and as a result our reliance on neutral disinterested "facts" may rule out our noticing relationships. And those relationships, presumably can be between lovers, colleagues, friends, and even thoughts.

[P.S. And yes it's the same Cialdini who analysed the six tendencies of persuasive blogs]


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