Swimming with a sea lion pack during mating season calls for passivity when the bulls come near to avoid becoming a member of his harem. 

Does passivity have a role in negotiations or mediation? Absolutely! 

In an ideal world each participant in a conflict resolution session would be constantly appraising the mood and temperament of the other people to sense their reaction and try to keep tempers calm and productive. If so, they would be less inclined to react adversely to outbreaks of anger and frustration. Demonstrating a degree of passivity does not connote lack of interest and boredom, it allows the other person to express their feelings without paying the price of a counter-attack, revenge anger.

But there are some risks in over using passivity to keep things calm. The message sent is that the person is thinking about other things or that they really don’t care about the other person or the issue. 

This is a powerful message. It can result in a number of reactions. In a situation involving a relationship conflict the other person may back away from the discussion until interest is renewed or, on occasion, they may increase their attack to pique your interest.

In the business or formal negotiating environment, passivity is used as a tactic, to solicit a better offer. Faced with your passivity the other person may increase their offer to pique your interest or keep you involved int he process.

How to strategically indicate you are in a passive mood: 

-Glance frequently at your watch. 

-Gaze over the other person’s left shoulder when they are talking. 

-After a clear statement say, ‘I’m sorry, could you repeat that?’ 

-Ask the other person if the meeting is going to take much longer. 

All of these things signal your lack of interest in what the other person is saying and even the topic itself. If you are trying to encourage the person to make a more interesting offer, be careful and watch the other person’s reaction. If the person is getting angry, change your tactic and get more involved for a while. Anger is a non-productive reaction.

In Seven Secrets to WINNING Without Losing a Friend, I discuss the times in a negotiation when passivity may be a viable tactic.

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