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By Felix Miller, Associate Consultant, Rational Games, Inc.

A recent McKinsey study found that ~76% of failed negotiations are due to either poor process or people management. This is the case in all contexts: commercial, political or non-profit. McKinsey’s Milan Prilepok further divides a negotiation in three parts: process, people and content.

Process management means co-creating an agenda, establishing rules of engagement as well as co-defining values. People management is all about trust-building, listening skills and psychological awareness, not to mention successful management of confirmation and other (cultural) biases. Finally, content management covers the hard facts and preparation of positions identifying BATNAs, targets, packages and more sophisticated measurement items.

But what are process, people & content management eventually for? In the end, it is all about trust. When people trust each other, magic happens. Open information sharing leads to a higher probability of better outcomes and less money left on the table. It enables the deal and makes things happen; it is an essential ingredient for good negotiation. It turns deadlocks into deals.

As philanthropists, we at RGI believe in the inherent goodness of all human beings. This mindset not only fuels our social entrepreneurship but also helps to break through deadlocks in our work. Kindness leads to care; a genuine commitment to taking the interests of the other side into account greatly boosts creativity and helps us find ways to fulfill both parties’ interests in the best possible way.

For us, kindness simply means to genuinely anticipate the good in people – especially in those that we consider “difficult”. We usually describe people as difficult if we do not understand them, are hurt by what they say or do or are simply not getting what we want from them. Trying some kindness in these situations allows us to evaluate their “difficult behavior” with more empathy. Perhaps there are “good” reasons that lead them to respond to us in a way that we find difficult: a different education, value system, way of conducting business or communicating. Perhaps they have suffered losses or had to endure difficult situations that taught them to behave in a “difficult” way now. And sometimes we all just have a bad day.

Considering all this enables us to take a step back before we react hastily to provocation. And so, we learn that a genuine interest in other people not only facilitates empathy but also helps us to get to a win-win result. The higher the value we co-create with the other side and the lower the cost of our claims, the larger the positive difference of value becomes which is then available to us both.

Being kind of course does not mean being naïve. When people really do use destructive and deceptive tactics, we always have the option to withdraw in favor of our BATNA, perhaps continuing the conversation on another day. Even such behavior can be forgiven, even if not tolerated

So why are there, in the end, no “difficult people “?

People are funny, complex, imperfect, brilliant and sometimes difficult to get along with. Everyone has a unique story to tell, and this can lead to wildly different perceptions of how to behave in a negotiation. If this gap is too great, misunderstandings can arise. And so we sometimes get stuck, fail to reach an agreement and then blame it on the „difficult people“. In the end, we all have the potential to be “difficult” when put in a wrong spot.

The philanthropic perspective engenders a genuine interest in universal human wellbeing regardless of origin, profession or religion. Bringing this mindset to the negotiation table and communicating it openly to the other side not only builds trust, establishes the benefit of the doubt but can also lead to much faster deal closure, with long-lasting relationships well beyond this particular transaction.

“Fortiter in re, suaviter in modo”

image by Banksy


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