Follow your ethical compass

Whose Ethical Compass Do You Follow

When you negotiate, do you have problems with your ethical compass? Do you assess those with whom you negotiate to determine the direction in which their ethical compass points?

During negotiations, people get ‘caught up in the moment’. As a result, sometimes they say and/or do ‘things’ that are misleading, misaligned with their core values, and even downright fraudulent. Nevertheless, one’s ethical compass is a matter of perception.

Consider the following situations and in your own mind assess who’s right from an ethical point of view.

  • As the result of a new state law (SB 1070 in a state in the U.S.), the local police have the right to stop anyone that does not ‘look’ a certain way. Some people are cheering, because they’ll get relief from local crimes that have occurred. Other people think the law will serve as a tool used to stop and possibly harass people that ‘look’ a certain way. Are there ethical misalignments at work in this situation, or a genuine concern for the public’s safety?
  • You’re stuck in a plane, on the tarmac for hours. Airline authorities indicate they don’t want to let passengers deplane, because ‘conditions’ could change at a moment’s notice and they need to be in a position to ‘take off’ sooner versus later. Are they lying, or are they trying to avoid the hassle of going through the rigors of deplaning passengers?
  • Your stockbroker suggests you buy a financial product, while telling others they should sell the same financial product. Some say financial reform is the answer. Others say, financial reform will be too restrictive. Is greed the factor that’s causing the ethical compass to be ‘off centered’ in this situation, or is it self-preservation. To what degree is the stockbroker’s ethical compass askew?

In the above situations, who is ethically right and what’s the ‘real’ source of motivation? Are the people advantaged in these situations duplicitous in their lack of ethics? Are they simply viewing situations from the perspective that the solution will solve a problem? It really depends upon the perspective from which you view each situation and the goals participants are striving to accomplish. In reality, people on either side of the continuum could be manipulating their ethical compasses for their financial and/or self-satisfying betterment.

In this negotiation tip, I’m not passing judgment on any negotiator, nor the practices he uses. To each I say, to thyself be true. Let your conscious be your guide.

When negotiating, determine ahead of time what you’re willing to do to obtain what you’re seeking. Assess the other negotiator’s capacity to ‘bend’ the truth in his efforts to get what he wants. In the balance will lie to what extent you and the other negotiator are willing to go to achieve the outcome being sought. To the degree that your assessment is accurate, you’ll have more control of the negotiation, from which you should be able to craft a more beneficial outcome … and everything will be right with the world.

The Negotiation Tips Are …

  • When you negotiate, if you find yourself in a state of ‘wicked wittiness (lying)’, consider the consequences of your actions. You don’t want to win a battle, at the expense of losing the war.
  • Where possible, never knowingly pressure the other negotiator into a position whereby he has to lie to sustain or embellish his point. Be cognizant of his body language to gain insight into his source of motivation.
  • Seek to understand what may motivate someone to lie. In so doing, you can guard against that source and use it to your advantage if the situation is warranted.


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