Shirley Sherrod was caught in a racial firestorm, partially because she’s Black, and partially because race relations are exploited by some people in the U.S. when negotiating. In the case of Shirley Sherrod, she was an innocent bystander, slandered.
Twenty-four years ago, Shirley Sherrod’s job was to assist farmers in securing services that would lead to avoiding foreclosure on their farms. During that time, Shirley Sherrod made a presentation to an organization. In her presentation, she related a story of her encounter with a particular white farmer that was condescending to her. She stated, initially she was not going to lend her ‘full’ effort to assisting this farmer, but after reflecting upon her negative thoughts, she decided to assist him with her full support, anyway. She did so, because she realized the need for assistance comes in all colors and in all ethnicities. Moreover, she reflected, it was the right thing to do.
That was the message she conveyed to the audience. What Shirley Sherrod didn’t count on was the fact that her information and eventual good thoughts and name would be turned against her, twenty-four years after she made her presentation. She forgot, “you’re always negotiating’.
Shirley Sherrod’s character was one of assisting her fellow man. When you understand someone’s character, you can negotiate with them based on their character. By understanding their character, you have an understanding as to how they’re likely to react in certain situations. In Shirley Sherrod’s situation, once her character was explored, it was discovered that she’d worked ceaselessly to assist people of all ethnicities.
Had the rush to judge Shirley Sherrod not been done in such haste, by everyone involved (White House, NAACP, U.S. Agriculture Department, the U.S. Media), not to say anything about those that initiated the victimization, it would have been discovered that she possessed a low likelihood of committing such accused acts.
What ‘teachable moments’ are rooted in this situation?
- Never be too quick to accept information as pure fact and acting upon it, without proper vetting.
- If you’re quick to ‘rush to judgment’ and you’re later proven to be wrong, be ‘big enough’ to admit your mistake sooner than later, and apologize quickly, to the person, or those that you’ve impugned.
- With reverse racism being such a ‘touchy point’ of contention for some people in the U.S., there’s a faction in the country that will seek to exploit race, anytime they have the opportunity. When you negotiate, be aware of this fact.
- Anyone can be portrayed as a ‘Shirley Sherrod’. Therefore, no matter where you are and what you do, even when you don’t consider yourself as such, remember, you’re always negotiating.
Where race relations are concerned in negotiations, there’ll be many ‘teachable moments’, from which to learn. As you encounter negotiation situations in life, related to race, take note and learn from them. In so doing, you’ll find that you’ll become more knowledgeable and informed about the way others think … and everything will be right with the world. Always remember, you’re always negotiating.
The Negotiation Tips Are …
- When negotiating, don’t be too quick to judge someone when exploring accounts of their past behavior, good or bad. Gather the appropriate information, consider the source of the information and vet the information before attempting to provide solutions to correct it. Don’t be made to appear foolish due to haste.
- No matter what your vocation, you’re always selling and marketing yourself. In so doing, when negotiating, understand the environment you’re in and the manner in which others might process information about you. Consider the role race may play in their decision making process.
- Even when people within one race negotiate with others of the same race, race matters. It matters, because there’ll be segments in the race that distinguish itself from other segments and thus will react differently to different thoughts, suggestions, and ideas. So, in order to achieve successful outcomes to negotiations, you have to understand the source of motivation required to ‘move that person to action’. Don’t assume he’s like everyone else in the race and apply a broad stroke to him in applying your negotiation strategies and tactics.