There is the technical strategy to handling a dispute, and then there is the human element. Have you ever been in a dispute where the other party was right about the facts but was so obnoxious that you refused to give in? Well, that’s the human element to negotiation that’s often overlooked. The overarching strategy is that of reasonableness. You must appear reasonable to the opponent and/or the court. The appearance of reasonableness is all that is needed although the more reasonable you are in everyday life, the more convincing you’ll be.
4 Strategies To Appear Reasonable
- Don’t be rude. No one (including a lawyer) is motivated to agree with, or cooperate with someone who is rude to them. Use your manners even while disagreeing. Listen, or at least appear to listen with minimal interruption. Use your poker face and if unable to speak politely, at least maintain a neutral tone of voice. Yes, the other side might be annoying but the most composed person wins.
- Don’t be a jerk. Jerks intentionally set out to provoke or bully others, so as to get their way. This approach never helps your case because it causes people’s defenses to go up. This type of forcefulness may get (false) temporary compliance if at all. This is why some people will pretend to agree then back out. You want your opponent’s defenses down when negotiating. The person with the calm but assertive approach wins.
- Do tell the truth. Unless you are intentionally choosing to omit some information for leverage purposes, do tell the truth in the things you decide to disclose. If caught in a lie, you will put the other party on guard and he/she will be less cooperative overall. This isn’t very conducive to getting you to a favorable outcome.
- Do keep your word. Deliver on promises made. If a deadline isn’t going to be met, communicate it to the other person ahead of time. This shows respect and integrity. It conveys to the other side that your word is bond. This is important because if it ever gets to a point where you have to make threats, those threats won’t be viewed as empty threats and you will be taken seriously even if you’re actually bluffing.
Appearing reasonable does not mean that you should be passive in a dispute. It means that your forcefulness must come mostly from your intention, not your action. It should be an underlying, controlled current that is directed towards getting you to your desired outcome, not directed at the other party or the lawyers. Developing the appearance of reasonableness will get you more wins, with a lot less resistance from the opponent. It will also come in handy if you’re in court.