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Berkonomics

Are you too emotionally involved in the decision?

Negotiating an agreement, especially one that involves personal gain, is tough for the person personally involved.  There is too much to lose to be objective, to be willing to walk when terms go upside down.

It is my experience that you should have an expert negotiator with you or even in your place, whether from your board or an employee or outside professional such as an attorney – when the issue is personal.

Think of buying a car, for example. If you are looking for your spouse or offspring, it is Fear_decision1probable that they’ve picked out the perfect car and are ready to take it off the dealer’s hands.  Assuming that you are the elected as or self-assigned to be the negotiator, the last thing you want is to have them in the room while you haggle over price.  Advantage other side.

Negotiating on behalf of business associates too personally involved in a transaction: it’s a role I’ve played tens of times over the years. There are the several that were disengagements between partners threatening to sue each other for perceived wrongs.  There’s the sale of a company, where as a board member, I asked the CEO to name his asking price and then go home and wait the result.   There’s the disengagement with an angry employee threating to sue the company.

All of these are personal issues to a CEO or founder or entrepreneur.  And all of them draw that person emotionally into making decisions that cannot easily be objective, or into finding solutions that are mutually acceptable without the torture of constant re-explanation of opposing positions.

A smart lawyer, they say, should never represent himself.  And yet, lawyers are trained in the art of negotiation.  You should be careful not to miss the point of that admonition.

My oldest son learned to accompany me, but keep a deadpan look on his face as I negotiated for his ideal car, completing the purchase in minutes.  The CEO described above endorsed his company selling for twice his asking price, after his absence helped the negotiation to be completed within an hour.  The partnership described above dissolved without suit after a personal visit by the negotiator without the first partner present resulted in settlement within an hour.  The employee just described  accepted a severance check in trade for a release, without the emotion of arguing out old issues between employee and employer.

Are you too emotionally involved in a decision?  Consider the advice lawyers give each other, and find a surrogate to argue your case.

  • To Dave Berkus:
    Formerly affiliated with the University of Southern California, the Doheny Eye Institute is now gradually becoming affiliated with the University of California-Los Angeles for an agreed upon period, not yet determined until a new president is installed. This significant change in the field of vision research and education required much wisdom and decision making during the past several years. Your advice regarding emotional involvement is seriously appropriate for an on-going event such as ours. – From George L. Browning, CGFM, 3/10/15.

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