Discerning Victims and Survivors

Greetings Negotiators!

Almost all of the information I share is either in the form of a rule “What to do in a situation” or a guideline “One way to create this outcome is…”.  In my daily life I will hear my pet peeve gnashing it’s teeth once in a while over a quasi-negotiating “position”.  So before I continue with my inspired information on this topic, I’ll simply iterate the rule “Whenever a Negotiating Complement (anyone you deal with in any communication event) takes a “victim” position, there is only one response and that is to annihilate THAT position by any means you have available.”  Just having a rule like that probably makes the Politically Correct crowd scream and pull their hair out, delete my website from their favorites list, etc.  It is not a smooth, kind thing to write and perhaps a few of you might want to understand the dynamics a little more before you rage at The Negotiator!

First my rule does not mean I don’t believe their are victims.  I do.  I believe that all true victims are dead.  I believe that there are also victims of the moment or a situation.  For example, a man enters into an intersection at the green light and some drunken crazy runs the perpendicular red light smashing into the man’s side, breaking his arm in 4 places.  The man who had the green light WAS a victim in this context of the man who ran the red light and did serious bodily injury.  In situations like that seldom does the drunken man get back in his car, rev up the engines, take another swig and run the red light AGAIN hitting the same man in a similar fashion breaking even more bones.  If the man with the broken arm is able to receive treatment in time to save his life then in the moment help arrives to make that future a reality he is no longer a victim but a survivor.  He survived that wreck.  The car doesn’t keep hitting him or rebreaking his arm.  I do not debate that there may be emotional and other mental harm done to the survivor, however he still has the opportunity to recover and survive the accident.

People who don’t survive car wrecks are victims.  In most instances being a dead victim doesn’t hold much weight in the negotiations of the living.

The essence of a Negotiation is the transaction of resources.  The obstacle that a “victim” position creates is two fold.  First, one of the most sacred Negotiator’s rules is “Never play someone elses game” – a victim position is always designed to get you to play the victim’s game exclusively. 2nd, the “victim” position is a one way street so it’s very nature annihilates the transaction of resources and makes the transference of resources one sided – that my friends is NOT a good negotiation.  As self-righteous as it may sound, annihilating a victim position actually does the victim a favour.  If you succeed in collapsing the victim position and the person still has breath to take ANY OTHER POSITION whatever that position will be will automatically be more resourceful than being a faux victim – unless they die.

The most powerful tool in The Negotiator’s Toolbox is asking resourceful questions.  One aspect of asking resourceful questions is often referred to as challenging the information.  This is the form of a question which intends to tear down or at least closely examine any position presented by the Negotiating Complement.  In the instance of a victim it is purely to tear down their position and perhaps offer them ANY OTHER position to take for the sake of allowing the Negotiation to be a Transaction and not some one-sided pity party.  The essence of a great negotiation is communicating and closing on accountability.  Think of this when you shape your questions for a victim position.

How much longer will the conditions exist to make you a victim?  Can you hang on to being this kind of victim and recover from whatever got you here at the same time?  Have you ever considered the benefits of moving on, getting on with your life?  If I can show you how you actually loose more and gain less by maintaining your victim stance would you consider an alternative?  Are there people who’ve had it worse than you that made remarkable lives for themselves?  Do you still think they are victims?  Do you know the difference between a victim and a survivor?

The list of creative challenge the information type questions on de-framing a victim position are endless.

Next time you are in ear-shot of someone expressing victim-speak listen to them closely and ask yourlself the following questions:

1) What resource do they gain by maintaining The Victim Stance?

2) What is the typical response to their “victim” stance?

3) How often do their negotiating complements move away from them?

4) Is there a position more suited for their outcomes other than victim?

So remember – you are almost always only a victim very briefly and after that you are either surviving the context that once made you a victim or you are dead.

If you wish to ask me a question or two about this post or any other just write me at justask@yourownbestgood.com.

the Negotiator

Open Source has Arrived

Greetings Negotiators!

I’ve dabbled with The GNU Project for about 6 years now not really grasping it’s potential power for many industries including our own – negotiating.  There is a fantastic documentary,  Revolution OS, that really gives a thinking person a chance to understand how some greedy players at the dawn personal computing created a spin so powerful that it’s impacted all of our lives for decades on a massive scale and most of us just thought “that is just the way it is”.

For me, ironically – I give credit to Bill Gates for my unexpected education in Open Source.  64 bit computers showed up in about 2003.  I bought and built my first 64 bit PC in 2004.  Like the average “sheepeople” I sleepwalked to my PC to go download a copy of the latest 64 bit Windows Operating System …only to discover it didn’t exist.  For you non-techies my (then) 64 bit pc was the relative equivalent of trading in my Moped for a Jaguar.  Billyboy at MS did eek out a 64-bit version of XP in 2005 but it was unsupported – no one was making any drivers for your video and audio and perhaps even your internnet connection.  It wasn’t until the dreaded Vista that there was an actual MS 64bit OS (2007).

The 32-bit computers came out in 1985 so from that time until the bloated MS Corp finally sold us a “bad” 64 bit OS – we had waited 22 years.  So, I got my fancy new computer home, built it and discovered there was no “sheepeople” OS for me to install in 2004.  That’s when I began to look at Linux.  I consider myself a “super-user” (fancy term that means I’ll try anything on a computer at least once)and in 2004 I was rather intimidated by Linux.  I assumed my geek-factor wasn’t high enough or something.  Since then I’ve realized that it wasn’t that I was too dumb to do Linux but that I had been very well trained by Microsoft on how to think about computers and computing – I had to unlearn some of my assumptions and “understanding” the MS way in order to appreciate a much broader view of the world of connected computers.

I’ve been using the very impressive Ubuntu Distro (if you don’t understand the term distro here that is just one example of how MS has limited  your thinking about computing – it took me months to “get it”)for business and personal use since 2008.  I live in the home-town of Dell and I believe they are carting some of their computers to market with Ubuntu as well.  My wife who gets cranky at a computer for the smallest of infractions migrated from XP to Ubuntu earlier this year.

I titled this post “Open Source has Arrived” as if me discovering it made it so, but that’s not true.  Open Source has been around for decades.  It is the story about how Microsoft, Amazon and Yahoo want to sue Google for providing the world with an open source solution in regards to out-of-date books that has inspired the title.  Google will be releasing a free operating system next year and appears to be joining the community of the Open Source world in some ways.  The other three named corps are crying foul because they can’t “compete” with free.  My current Negotiating Position on that is as follows: You Three big greedy corporations please step back so that the other 6+ billion of us on the planet can find some benefit in the great transformation that Google is making toward Open Source.  You CANNOT compete with Open Source because it’s principle is freedom like free speech, not lawsuits, greed and monopolies.  If your Operating System costs $400 and theirs cost $0 then that like all the other qualities of the operating system are for the consumer to decide and use or buy.  Your closed source community is not unlike long-distance phone service.  I’m sure those of us who are old enough remember a time when you had to pay for long-distance.  Perhaps we will be around to look back on a time when you had to purchase an operating system.

Afterthought: As a Negotiator I do not revile anyone making a profit.  To be a little open-sourcy about it – I also do not object to everyone making a profit.  When you ponder my passionate position on Open Source from my above blather, ask yourself this question – who determines what you can make a profit on and what you cant?  If you could do something about that to change that situation would you?  I’ve been pondering what an Open Source Negotiation might look like.

If you would like some Open Source Negotiating Training or just an Open Source Negotiating Dialog please contact me at justask@yourownbestgood.com.

I’ll see you at the Negotiating Table!

Bruce, The Negotiator!

Pretending to Vacation!

Greetings Negotiators!


Catamaran Spa and Resort San Diego, CA

Though it is now nearly noon, this picture is a beautiful shot of where I’m writing you from. I’m sitting on the fifth floor of that tall building on the right side of the photograph look ing back down at the boats while I write you my latest blog. Today marks the fourth day of living on the west coast staring out at the Pacific Ocean. Last night was the first full night’s sleep I’ve had in about three weeks very long hours and hard work getting ready for The Miracles Weekend seminar that I’ve helped put together for Dr. Joe Vitale.

First up on the Negotiator’s tales of this seminar weekend are two people that I met who touched me deeply and reinforced some valuable Negotiating Lessons (even for me). Peggy Roux and Dennis (prounounced Din-EE) Hartings we two extraordinary individuals. First they flew all the way from Montreal to be here in San Diego to listen to a fascinating lineup of speakers talk about the relationship between mind, body and spirt. English is not their first language though their proficiency with American English was superb. Secondly both Dennis and Peggy are completely blind.

I have to admit when I first saw them I discovered some social revulsion coming up for me for people with significant disabilities. I got quiet enough to discover I was dealing with my own fear of blindness and realized that I wasn’t repulsed by them but my own lack of gratitude and appreciation for my ability to see. I made the choice to discover what they knew that I did not.

The Miracle’s Weekend seminar Officially Ended with a fantastic talk by Dr. Joe Vitale on “Awakening”. However, after his talk he invited Denis on stage to sing. As a big guy I hate to admit this but while this 80 pound blind French Canadian sang “I can see clearly now the rain has gone” I found myself crying. I was thunderstruck by the exquisite quality of his voice and his massive passion for singing.

So even though I have many tales of the Adventures of Peggy and Dennis, the one thing my Negotiator’s radar picked up was almost comical though you had to really being paying attention to notice. The ballroom had cleared of the Seminar participants, my wife and I were gathering the last remains of things to be shipped back home from the Seminar and the Hotel staff was clearing the room of all the tables, table cloths and chairs. There were just a handful of people left in the ballroom, including Peggy and Dennis. A tradition of Dr. Vitale’s support team is for him to take us out to dinner after an event. Someone (my wife perhaps) was on the phone and talk was being exchanged in the room and on the phone about where to meet and when. I happened to look all the way across the ballroom and noticed Peggy and Dennis were like statues, standing alone, not speaking or doing anything else.

I realized then that they were doing what so many of us only half-do or occasionally do or do poorly – they were listening with every fiber of their being to all the information flying about the room. I walked back over to them and teased them a little about it by saying “You guys are ‘listening’ aren’t you?” They are both very gregarious individuals with strong spirits that have endured obstacles I cannot imagine. The laughed happily and began to Negotiate their way into our private dinner.

Their flight was scheduled to leave in only a few hours and I wasn’t really in a position to get them invited. I’m sorry Peggy and Dennis – next time I see you I’ll do my best to get you a couple of seats at the VIP table. Dennis is self-employed and is the Visionary behind The UFO Proeject (Unified Field Orchestra). Peggy is a full-time mom with her teenage daughter.

I’m probably going to play and relax today after 3 weeks of 16-18 hour days non-stop. I’ll be back in Austin later on this week.

If you’d like to know more about events that I attend or acquire my Negotiating Services or Negotiating Training, please signup on the top right hand of this page for my Negotiator’s Checklist (and Newsletter).

I’ll see you at the Negotiating Table!

Bruce Burns, the Negotiator!

The Negotiator’s Basic Training

The Negotiator’s Basic Training

by: Bruce Burns

1. Study your Play book

When you find yourself in the specific tunnel leading you to the playing field of a negotiation NOTHING is more important than BEING READY!

  1. Evaluate your Positions, Evaluate your Negotiating Compliment’s (party or parties you Negotiate with) Positions
  2. Achieve Maximum Familiarity with your Negotiating Compliment
    1. What are their interests ?
    2. What are their fears and concerns ?
    3. What inspires them ?
    4. What expires them (their kill switch) ?
    5. What is their their style ?
    6. What is their manner?
    7. What is their pace?
    8. What is their angle ?
    9. What is their gimmic?
    10. This list can be fairly endless as the Negotiator masters sensory acuity (making more and more distinctions)
  3. Prepare three gambits. A gambit is a word often used by chess players.  It is the meta-view of a series of tactics that form a strategy that actually has a specific shape as opposed to a general strategy that has a variable shape.
    1. Stalling Gambit – this strategy (in essence) is where you use various tactics to achieve maximum position in a Negotiation without closing the deal.  The resource that is on your side in this gambit is time.  You draw out the Negotiation often times in order to wear down your Negotiating Compliment. You use time to cause your Negotiating Compliment to alter their position.
    2. Talk Less Gambit – A great error that many negotiators and non-negotiators make is that they give away too much information.  I will refer to this as the TMI rule.  For this gambit to work you have to understand something about your Negotiating Compliment.  This gambit often assumes that the Negotiating Compliment has poor habits and/or training and fills in the awkward silences with words that actually represent a change in their position.  When the Negotiating Compliment changes their position favorably toward you, you reward them with a bit of engagement asking for details about what they mean and more or less getting them to write the contract for you.
    3. The Interview Gambit – the interview gambit is not only a strong starting point for any new Negotiator but it is also the very best excercise in mastering The Art of Asking Resourceful Questions. You start the Negotiations with a tone of curiosity and you reward the Negotiating Compliment every time they participate fully in your questions (regardless of whether you like their answer or not)  The value of this gambit is that it causes the Negotiating Compliment to paint their position into an immoveable corner.  This allows you to Negotiate with an infinite set of options to their finite set of conditions based on a very specific and unmoving position.
  4. Relax.  Relaxation is perhaps one of the strongest resources you could ever take to a Negotiation. For those over achievers out there I want you to think of going to a Negotiation the same way you would as if you were taking a very important test for graduation or a license of some sort.  Once you’ve done your preparations, take the last 10 minutes to relax and free your mind before you go meet your Negotiating Compliment

2. Opening Moves

1. Evaluate the Frames. Before you can grasp the nuance of framing you first have to appreciate the difference between “framing” and “positioning”.  A simple definition of positioning is – what any party is willing to do or not willing to do based on a specific set of conditionsFraming is the act (and art) of telling people what something means or what they think it should mean.  For example a Negotiating Preframe might be found contained in the following opening line “This converstaion is going to be short and we are going to come to an agreement quickly.”  The conversation hasn’t even happened yet and someone is already talking about what the conversation is going to be.  They are trianing your mind or the mind of your Negotiating Compliment what to think and how to think about what’s coming next.

there are 3 basics types of framing Pre-Framing, Re-Framing and De-framing.

2. If your Negotiating Compliment starts with Pre-Framing (defining what something means, telling you how the Negotiation is going to go and so forth)then your response must be to challenge his framing (even if you agree).  When someone’s “framing” process has been allowed to stand they have set a precedent in the Negotiation to do it again and you can almost count on that happening.  Pre-Framing by you is often a very smart way to start off a Negotiation.  Decide what you do and do not want to talk about, where and where-not you want to go in a Negotiation and form a statement or question to reflect that as an opening move.

3. A Major Tenant in a Negotiation is He Who Asks the Questions Controls the Flow of the Negotiation.  Master The Art of Asking Resourceful Questions.

3. The Negotiating Dance

Once you have established the ground work for a Negotiation your opportunity is to see it through. You must be open to the mystries of the universe (and your Negotiating Compliment) in order to take full advantage of what they say and how you can capitalize upon their information.  Here are some dance moves to consider:

    1. If your Negotiating Compliment pushes then do a take away
    2. If you Negotiating Compliment stalls then change the focus (or topic) of the Negotation
    3. If your Negotiating Compliment rushes then stall.
    4. If your Negotiating Compliment is foggy or unclear then ask more questions.
    5. If your Negotiating Compliment asks a positioning question (a question who’s answer will nail down your position and reduce your flexibility possibly later) then challenge his question with your own question instead of answering it.
    6. If you Negotiating Compliment presses you to take a position or tries to box you in play stupid.

A metaphor that might help you Understand what your doing during The Dance Phase of a Negotiation is that you are painting your Negotiating Compliment.  In order for you to do this you need him to assume a position that you like and hold absolutely still (maintain that favorable position)  You want to get your Negotiating Compliment into an unchanging or immoveable position that fully supports your own position then…

4. Close!

The are many resources on the art of closing.  Some great movies to stir up your closing passions are “Glengarry Glen Ross” and “The Boiler Room”  If you’ve done a great job of the other 3 steps in this Basic Training then most of your work for #4 is already done.  Closing is really about what your Negotiating Compliment is READY TO DO NOW (though that is not always true it’s a good basic rule to follow).  When you close you simply continue to Ask Resourceful Questions like:

  1. “Will you give me a credit card number now or do you prefer to use a check?”
  2. “How many copies of the contract would you like to have signatures on?”
  3. “Do you want me to cc the invoice to any other parties?”
  4. “Please give me your banker’s contact details so we can expedite the transaction.”
  5. Every question in the close is full of assumptions that THEY ARE ALREADY CLOSED.  The close is about taking action to the commitment you’ve already acquired from them from the course of the Negotiation.
  6. “Now that we’ve settled our first successful Negotiation is there anything else we might be able to do for you?” (Upsale as often as you can).

Although there are mountains of information about Negotiating the real Master Negotiator has worn all those mountains down to a simple, smooth and graceful ballet of communicating to and with the Negotiating Compliment to not only acquire exactly what you want in a Negotiation but to obtain even more than you first intended.

Bruce Burns, the Negotiator!

Austin, Texas