Negotiate to Win: Are You Too Detached?

Negotiate to Win: Extremely Detached People

Because extremely detached people shun publicity, we don’t know much about them. We have all met highly detached accountants and engineers, but they don’t reveal personal information. Nor can we get much from other sources. People magazine doesn’t write about them (and they would be horrified if it did). Two excellent examples are fictional characters from another planet, Spock and Data of “Star Trek” (“I have no emotions.”).

General Characteristics: They like things, ideas, or numbers more than people. They don’t understand emotions and try to avoid them; they suppress their own emotions and are insensitive to other people’s feelings. They are shy, aloof, impersonal, and uncommunicative. Because they’re so indifferent to emotions, many people regard them as cold and uncaring, and that criticism is often justified.

They like order and predictability. Their desks, homes, offices and checkbooks are neatly arranged, and they often have tightly-controlled routines and schedules. One reason for avoiding people is that they are not as orderly and predictable as numbers or machines.

They are independent, but in a different way from dominants. They have even less need for warm relationship, but they don’t flaunt authority. They accept the impersonal authority of rules and procedures (at least those that make sense to them), but avoid people who attempt to control them directly.

They tend to be quiet, and many of them are low-reactors. They don’t say much, nor do they communicate their thoughts and feelings by their voice, gestures, and facial expressions. One computer systems analyst showed so little emotion that we called him “OCR.” He reacted to people like an optical character reader.

Many people find their lack of reactions so disturbing that they talk too much or overreact trying to force a reaction. I learned that lesson the hard way. When I was a professor, I lectured to a group of Swiss bankers. Previous audiences had reacted well: laughing, smiling, and nodding their heads, but this group just sat there, frozen-faced, arms and legs crossed, revealing nothing.

I started to perspire. My voice got louder, my delivery faster, my gestures more extreme. I ad-libbed, told exaggerated stories, threw in every joke I could think of.

Nothing! They sat there like a bunch of statues.

As I was packing up my things, wondering what went wrong, someone came up to me and said, “Professor Schoonmaker, you were so funny we could hardly keep from laughing.”

I stared at him, absolutely flabbergasted. “Then why didn’t you laugh?”

“Swiss bankers would never laugh at a professor’s lecture. It just isn’t done.”

Detached people are open-minded, especially about impersonal issues. They like facts and logic, and they value objectivity. If someone challenges their position, they don’t respond angrily. They analyze the facts objectively and will change their position if the data disagree with it.

They like to work alone and prefer occupations that require objective, factual, impersonal analysis, such as chemistry, physics, engineering, mechanics, accounting, statistics, and computer science. They enjoy this type of work and are most comfortable with these kinds of people.

Fears: Extremely detached people are afraid of intimacy, dependency, and unpredictability. When people get too close to them, they may become extremely uncomfortable, so upset that they simply have to get away. Their fears of dependency and unpredictability are closely linked. If they are dependent upon someone, they can’t tell what will happen, which can really scare them.

Some extremely detached people can’t tolerate any kind of disorder, even on trivial issues. For example, a friend’s husband would become furious if she put his long- and short-sleeved shirts in the same part of his closet.

Hidden Question: Are you a logical, rational problem-solver? Or are you one of those emotional people? Both kinds of emotions, the dominant person’s tough ones, and the dependent person’s tender ones are undesirable.

Attitude Toward Negotiations: They dislike nearly everything about them: the rituals, the illogical positions, the concern for atmosphere, the emotional factors, and so on. If they can, they refuse to negotiate. If they must do it, they would prefer email to avoid personal contact and keep the facts clear.

They overemphasize joint problem-solving, but for different reasons from dependent people. They are realistic about conflict, but want to resolve it, not by appealing to good will, but by using facts and logical analysis. Instead of price-bargaining, they’d rather shop carefully, find the best price and pay it. If they must deal with a particular person or organization, they would prefer to avoid give and take negotiations by using an objective standard such as an impersonal appraisal or a market value.

They intensely dislike pure bargaining because it seems irrational to them. They despise asking for much more than they expect to get, distorting their position, playing the mutual concession game, and so forth. They find the entire process repugnant

Negotiating Strengths: Their objectivity and analytical ability create both strengths and weaknesses. They gain by remaining cool and analytic, even when others become emotional or irrational. However, as we’ll see in a moment, their disdain for “irrationality” often makes them ignore essential aspects of negotiations.

They prepare thoroughly. It’s their favorite negotiating step because they can focus on the facts without thinking about what other people think or feel, how they are acting, and so on. Their preparation regarding the issues is usually exceptionally thorough, but they often ignore the human elements. In addition to studying the other side’s proposal, they may do extensive research about other alternatives. For example, as buyers or sellers they may carefully study the market, learn how various products compare and what they cost, and various vendors’ terms and after-sales service.

This thoroughness builds their power in several ways. First, during the negotiation session they have important facts right at their fingertips. Second, they may position themselves well; while conducting research, they learn about other alternatives. Third, this research and their alternatives increase their natural indifference. They can walk away from this deal and make a different one.

While negotiating, they clarify issues thoroughly and don’t act impetuously. They understand the implications of any position or concession before acting. They have trouble creating momentum, but – when the movement starts – they control it well.

They don’t give away valuable information. On the contrary, they often get much more information than they give. Their low-reaction style causes many people to talk too much, even about sensitive subjects, trying to force some reaction from them.

They are willing to walk away rather than accept a bad deal or respond to an unrealistic position. They often use The Law of Indifference, not as a ploy, but because they are genuinely indifferent to negotiating. When someone takes an unreasonable position, they would rather talk to someone else or just drop the subject.

Their thoroughness and attention to detail makes their deals easy to implement. Everyone knows what to do.

Negotiating Weaknesses: Their greatest weakness is disliking negotiations. They often respond to their discomfort, not to the demands of the negotiating process. Some of them are extremely ignorant about and indifferent to these demands. They simply can’t be bothered with them.

They ignore the need to create the right atmosphere, or they try to convert bargaining sessions into analytic problem-solving meetings, or they violate essential rituals. This last point must be expanded. They especially dislike the mutual concession ritual, but many people regard it as the essence of negotiations.

Many detached people violate it regularly, perhaps without realizing what they are doing. Instead of building “fat” into their proposal, then trading it away, they start near or even at their MSP. Other people often resent their rigidity and apparent refusal to “bargain in good faith.” They may even break off the negotiations rather than make all the conces­sions.

They are insensitive to other peoples’ motives and concerns. They may miss signals, including quite obvious ones, because they don’t care what other people want. They care only about objective facts and figures.

They are particularly insensitive to emotions, politics, and other “irrational” subjects. They may not see any need to make concessions to build good will, create momentum, or help people with their boss, partner, or spouse. For example, if they make a proposal with no fat in it and refuse to move, they may weaken the other side’s political position. Their bosses may criticize them for gaining nothing from the negotiation.

Their thorough preparation has a negative side. Some detached people prepare so thoroughly that they become rigid and closed-minded. They won’t even consider alternatives that they haven’t thoroughly researched. They may move forward, executing their plans, ignoring obvious signals, irritating the other side, and preventing consideration of more creative and mutually-beneficial arrangements.

They may also be too rigid for another reason. Sometimes they believe that what is right or most cost-effective can’t be compromised. They may place so much emphasis upon certain facts, principles, or procedures that they can’t make compromises, especially tactical ones. The momentum may never start, or it can break down, or the detached person may even walk away from an otherwise satisfactory agreement rather than accept an illogical position on a relatively minor issue.

Their thoroughness may directly inhibit momentum. So much time can be spent clarifying issues, including unimportant ones, that there is not enough time to make trades, explore creative alternatives, etc. The whole process can become bogged down in the details.

Their final weakness is their predictability. Other people can often accurately determine and exploit their limits, priorities, power, and strategy.

Best Way To Approach Them: Virtually the only way to deal with them is with facts, figures, and logic. Avoid discussing personalities and emotions. Don’t try to intimidate or warm them up. Attempting either one can turn them off.

Prepare thoroughly, and make sure to get all the facts you need to support your position. They can be influenced best by solid evidence.

Propose detailed, well-organized positions, and make them reasonable! Outrageous or overly-ambitious proposals can end the negotiations before they start. Detached people typically make and expect offers that are close to the final deal, and they may walk away rather than respond to a proposal they regard as unreasonable.

Allow enough time to negotiate slowly and carefully. They will thoroughly study your proposals and the evidence supporting them. Then, if you have convincingly shown that costs or the market or other objective facts are different from their expectations, they will probably move – slowly.

Accept and adjust to the fact that negotiations are not a game to them. They dislike the game aspects of negotiations so much that they will frequently refuse to play.

This blog was taken from my forthcoming book, Negotiate to Win: Gaining the Psychological Edge, 2nd Edition. A Kindle edition will be published soon. For a free copy, click here.

To watch a free video based on this book, click here.