We are a culture of compromise. We give in to some things and take in others, trying to remain agreeable and fair. As an example, my daughter wanted to wear shorts today to school, (50 degrees outside). My instincts told me that this was going to be trouble from the beginning. If I ask her to change, I am dictating what she can wear and controlling her decisions. If I say nothing, I will catch the wrath of her mother, and if I try to negotiate, I will expend a huge amount of time.
Although this is a simple example, we all have to negotiate, accept, give and take. The more important that a point of contention is to us, the harder we must apply ourselves. Unfortunately, there are some people that do not easily give, and always take. Have you ever been manipulated and you did not realize it was happening? Here are several tactics that people use to manipulate you into agreeing with their proposal. What does this have to do with law? Stay tuned.
Trigger one: The hard noser
A hard nosed tactic is to give little or nothing without a fight. In short, this person or attribute (sometimes interchangeable) will show no weakness. It is their way or the highway. This tactic works well for lawyers in some cases. The opposition simply does not want to put in the effort, or pay the cost, to negotiate a fair compromise and gives up on seemingly unimportant details, only to find they were short changed later. My daughter uses this tactic.
How do you deal with this attorney, person or child? Patience is the absolute key. I must be committed to the process or I will not get the person to budge. This person really hates to wait, wants to skip over details and does not want to listen to your thoughts because they feel they are losing control of the process. That is exactly what you want them to feel. Eventually, a fair and thorough compromise will be reached but you must be willing to patiently work through the process. Do not agree to anything until you both agree to everything. Do not let them parse out little agreements without discussing all points on the table. It really works.
Trigger two: Flattery is king.
People who want to persuade you to agree to their way of thinking often are identified by efforts to build your image or compliment your ego. We all recognize the movie clip where the wife wants to convince the husband of his prowess when in truth she wants to buy something. Lawyers try this tactic as well. Flattery can be genuine, but if you see that it is gushing out over little things, and it seems out of place, rest assured it is. My daughter will try flattery from time to time. Gee dad I really like to shop with you, you are so much fun! I am an in and out guy and spend no time shopping. Her flattery is disingenuous and eventually her desire surfaces. The effort is designed to make you feel good, because when you feel good, you are more likely to want to keep that feeling, by continuing the road to conflict avoidance.
So how do you deal with flattery? Simply accept it, keep it, enjoy it, and to keep that good feeling going. When the request comes your way stay in the moment, while saying what you want. Oh darling daughter, I don’t think we can buy that today for you, but maybe next time. Your positive attitude will throw them off. If they really want to take it up a notch, they will be the ones that move to a different strategy. A lawyer who tries to get something with flattery quickly realizes that they are in a pickle. They just complimented the other attorney and now they must either admit they were exaggerating, or keep up the good feeling despite being denied their unjustified request.
Trigger three: Please don’t guilt me.
Guilt is a powerful motivator. To avoid feeling guilt, we sometimes will give much more than normal or fair. To get their way, a person will manipulate the facts in such a way as to create guilt in you. My daughter might say “You never let me make my own decisions.” Suddenly I feel that may be right, and I allow her to wear the shorts today.
To combat guilt, you must remember that there is a time to assess the cause and basis for your guilt, but it is not during the discussion at hand. Simply address directly that you understand their point leading to your guilty feeling and agree to look at that subject or issue later, but for now let’s get back to the discussion of the issues at hand.
An example: The husband is out late again. Wife says I want you to call or come home. I am uncomfortable when you are out late and I do not know where you are. Husband retorts about the time his wife falsely accused him of infidelity, and that she just needs to trust him! (No I am not using Tiger Woods as an example.) The wife gives in, but she could instead have acknowledged that she made a mistake previously, note that subject and those feeling should be discussed fully, but after the issue at hand. “You should respect me, and call if your are late, but I really want you to be home with me.
So what happened this morning? Well I committed the time necessary to open the discussion. My daughter tried to convince me that I was not letting her make her own decisions. I noted that she could wear what ever she wanted that was appropriate for the weather. Unfazed, she went right to guilt. You really don’t want me to make my own decisions because you think I am too stupid. She missed the mark with that one, since she is quite smart. Since guilt showed no value, she tried flattery. She argued that it would be warm again today and she wanted to play soccer in the afternoon and would be too warm with long pants on. She just wanted to be better at soccer, a sport I had been encouraging her to practice at since she is showing promise.
It worked! She hit a flattering moment! She wanted to do what I suggested. So we discussed a compromise, she could wear shorts under sweats and take the sweats off when ever she wanted to. Problem solved, she skipped up the stairs. I dodged a bullet, and when my wife came downstairs. She did not even know what happened.
Try these strategies in your personal and professional life. They work.