Sailing Secretaries Separate Setting Solve Sounding Special Stall Statement Strategy Supporting Documents Sympathy


Sailing a boat is like managing a team. How you handle the lines and sheets determines where and when you will achieve your goal.

Small team leaders can learn from the basic sailing technique of world class racers to improve how they manage. Similarly negotiators and mediators can learn the nuances of informal, small group leadership from skilled sailors.

Sailing a small boat requires knowledge of how each line works, what the boat's response is to pulling in or letting out a sheet, and how much or little sail to have up. Basically a well-trimmed craft needs little assistance from the sailor to maximize the wind's power and sail across a lake.

Trimming a small group is similar to handling a small boat. The basics are the same. Without leadership neither wants to do what you want it to do. The boat will be pushed up on the rocks if you do nothing. The small group will flounder and fail without direction. Small adjustments to the lines and tiler are the best ways to trim a boat, not large, dramatic moves. It is the same with people. They respond best to gentle encouragement or a light form of rebuke.

Negotiators have the choice of being crew or taking control. Effective negotiators take control but in a quiet, disarming manner. They simply lead by their actions, their line of questioning and their performance.


When seeking to attract a large, angry female grizzly, threaten its cub. That is sure to get you the attention you want.

Go out of your way to treat assistants and secretaries with respect, Give them special attention. They may be able to help you. They can also keep you at away from their boss.

Oblique overtures often reveal insights that will be helpful in future sessions. A secretary is likely to share her boss's personal pressures, office problems or bad timing without feeling she is revealing anything untold. Gathering this information about your opponent is all part of the detective work you need to do to prepare properly for an important meeting.

Assistants, secretaries and other clerical support personnel are a wealth of knowledge. They also are the people who produce documents, schedule meetings and manage their bosses. Develop a rapport with them by treating them as people, not some sub-human species. Working with these people, as an equal, you can speed tasks along and make sure you have an input on the final product.

Consider the entire opposing team as a management opportunity for you.



Never try to separate a wolf cub from its pack unless you are willing to embrace the wrath of the whole pack.

Many disputes appear to be too large to tackle; much less resolve. By separating components of the dispute a family mediator is able to get those involved to focus on less stressful challenges and work on rebuilding their relationship. Even if the core problem is unable to be overcome right away, by re-establishing the ability to work together the mediator has managed to start the progress of healing the relationship.

Separating the issues from the people removes some of the emotion from the discussion. In family disputes there are underlying issues of failure and resentment that color a discussion. Focusing on the issue of a teenager's breaking curfew is easier than trying to uncover why he is disrespectful to his mother. This is especially stressful if she is focused on all she has done for him.

Separating the combatants is a tactic mediators use regularly in caucuses. This allows the mediator to work with both sides independently to try to bring the two sides closer together while not having to deal with the emotions of face-to-face confrontation. Negotiators can use this same tactic in team settings. Try taking the lead negotiator aside and seeking to enlist his personal help in resolving the matter. Such special treatment can break loggerheads.



Strategically planning your encounter with a striped phantom, also known as the Tasmanian tiger, may help determine which predator survives.

Picking the proper setting for a dispute resolution or mediation conference should not be left to fate, the other party, or an assistant. The setting affords a number of opportunities and can impact the tone and outcome of the session.

Advantages of conducting the meeting in your office.

-You don't waste time driving to his or her office and returning. Time is money.

-You have access to your support staff and documents to complete and agreement reached.

-You have the ability to have your assistant come in at a specified time and remind you of a critical meeting you can't miss.

-You extract a degree of authority by being on your home turf.

Advantages of conducting the meeting in the other person's office.

-You can get up, end the meeting and leave at any time.

-You have the opportunity to gather information about the other person by observing his surroundings, his staff, and his resources.

-You can stay and take up his time by delaying your departure beyond the set time to end the session. This helps to force some decisions as people tend to counter or respond quicker when they feel time is running out.

-You can assess the other person's level of authority by being in his company's offices.

Advantages of conducting the meeting on neutral ground.

-You force the other person out of his or her office without revealing your office setting to them.

-Time is money. Getting the other team to commit to an out of office meeting increases the investment they are making into the resolution process.

-You can get up, end the meeting and leave at any time.



Falling into a viper pit requires a quick solution to prevent an untimely end.

Solving problems is the creative part of dispute resolution, negotiations and mediation. It is the aspect of the process that sets the great negotiators apart from good negotiators.

Identifying and defining each problem is the first step in solving them. Do not expect all of the problems to be self-evident. The work of dispute resolution management is not unlike the tasks of an engineer, architect, business person, or parent/spouse. Most of the progress occurs when unexpected obstacles or opportunities are presented and one has the capacity to react appropriately.

One simple rule, an unidentified problem is the hardest to resolve. Take the time early in the negotiation to identify all the issues that have bearing on the outcome. Then tackle them one by one.

Problem solving is an art. Encourage everyone at the table to think in terms of solving the problem rather than defending their turf. Ask them to "think outside the box". Manage the team at the table to do their best to come up with a solution. The very process of problem solving can lead to an atmosphere of mutual respect and collaboration.



Peering into the dark recesses of an underwater cavern is not a sign of fear; it shows you are aware of what might be lurking within..

Sounding is a negotiating tactic designed to establish the parameters of the other person's tolerances. Before making an offer, testing or sounding for tolerance points will enable you make an aggressive offer that won't be so offensive as to cut of further negotiations.

A mediator will likely conduct casual sounding in private working session with each side. While the objective of these breakout or caucus sessions is to generate an opening bid, the mediator will also be trying to learn what the real parameters are to use as a frame of reference when the shuttle diplomacy phase begins.

Once the opening bids are established, the mediator will need to formulate how he presents each bid to the other party in the best light so that the offer is not rejected but countered. This is where sounding insights are applied.



Extending the effort to make an Eskimo chief feel special may reap you with the company of his wife for the night.

People want to feel needed or respected. Granting every person involved in a dispute settlement conference their own power is a practice common to mediators. In fact, the mediation process is premised on each party having the right to terminate discussions if they become uncomfortable with the process. This automatically invokes power in the hands of each person giving their opinions and comments tacit credibility.

When negotiating against a gruff, powerful developer used to getting his way, acknowledging his special expert status and soliciting his help to show you how a problem can be resolved may remove a road block to negotiations where direct confrontation would likely have failed.

When an accord is reached, be sure to applaud the efforts and negotiating prowess of the other team to reinforce the agreement before cognitive dissonance can set in.



Pausing to assess your options and then waiting a little bit longer is not a bad tactic when trying to dissuade a Diamond Back from striking.

We live in a fast-paced society. Between faxes, email, pagers and mobile telephones, there is precious little time taken to reflect on the negotiation once it begins. But the pace of the discussions is something that you can and should manage.

Just because the mediator or other person is in a hurry is no reason for you to rush a response or even respond. Take your time, assess your options, and set your strategy carefully. Then respond. You have the power and authority to set the pace of the negotiations.

In a family dispute remember that people may require different cooling off periods. That is, one person may cool down more quickly than the other. The person who requires longer to get over an argument is not being intentionally mean or stalling. They are only reacting differently. It is not something that they control. It is programmed into their DNA. The couple must come to understand this difference in tempo so it does not lead to further antagonism.

Keeping the other person in the dark can be useful. When you want to delay a response, you do not need to tell everyone. Sometimes the unknown can force a telling reaction. Patience on the part of the other person does not necessarily connote strength or disinterest. In fact, it may mean that he or she is seeking more information or time before deciding what to do. If you are fully prepared, go on the offensive.



Standing before the Grand Council about to plead for your release, choose your words carefully. A simple inadvertent adjective can make the difference between a sympathetic benefactor and an infuriated despot.

Making a statement presents a number of opportunities. As preparing to speak, remember the likely impact of your statement and strategically plan your statement to have the desired impact. And do not speak just to fill a lull in the conversation. Inadvertent remarks can reveal information or have an adverse impact on the other person.

Statements may:

-Deliver information and answer questions posed by the other person.

-Deliver information and raise questions not considered by the other person.

-Appease the other person; or upset them.

-Be fact-filled but not serve any purpose as the other side is not listening. Make sure you have their attention before responding.

-Reveal more than needed or intended. Brevity is not a bad habit unless you are trying to guide the conversation through your response.

-Be necessary to let the speaker vent. Let the other person vent to ease the tension. But don't react to his antics as they may be a ploy to get you upset.

-Be necessary to establish the parameters of the argument.

Listen carefully when others speak. It is a chance to gain insights and gather information. When facts are presented, don't make the mistake of accepting them on face value. Question the source and accuracy. Do you own research. Then consider what impact they have on your specific situation.



Following a herd of gazelles until one drifts away from the herd is not patience as much as it is the leopard's strategy.

Negotiation is typically not decided by the facts. Often it is strategy and tactics being well deployed that carry the day.

Preparing for any negotiation or settlement conference serves to sharpen your strategies and enhance your tactical arsenal. Fully prepared, you are likely more able to handle surprises than the other person. You are more able to get "outside" the box and creatively solve problems and avoid impasse situations.

Strategic planning enables you to presuppose the other person's arguments and prepare appropriate defenses. It allows you to chart the probable course of the discussions and be prepared to redirect them when they start to stray. Essentially, strategic thinking applies to all aspects of conflict. Negotiations, by its nature, is conflict based. Not to plan how best to handle the situation is ignoring the fact that a struggle is about to ensue and the victor will be likely be the person who is the best prepared; not necessarily the most powerful.



It is not an enviable position to be standing accused before the tribal chieftain with the tribe's relics in your backpack.

Negotiation is not always about the facts. Often it is about delivery and arguments. Facts can get lost in the shuffle. It is a good practice to establish your argument and then support it with fact based data contained in short, specific supporting documents. By showing that you have done your homework you will gain respect even if you don't prevail. You will also reduce the likelihood of the other person trying to bluff you in the future.

Documenting the facts you are presenting gives your arguments credibility and authority. They also allow you to sell your case and not have to sell your facts.

Facts and documents can also be used to settle family or spousal disputes. They are not relegated solely to the business or legal arenas. When a teenage son rants about his rights to drive the family car enter into evidence his last report card demonstrating a declining GPA. That should effectively refute his claim that he is doing "OK". But be careful not to leave your old report cards laying around as one day they may be used against you!



The difference between a sympathetic benefactor and an infuriated despot may rest in your demeanor towards the Grand Council.

Being sympathetic in no way needs to telegraph weakness. In many instances, sympathizing with the other person's situation may actually give them the personal room to concede a point without losing face. Properly offered, sympathy can enlighten, encourage and close an argument.

Cases for using sympathy tactics:

-When the other person has shared the fact that his "people" would not agree to a concession. Commiserate that you have been in a similar situation and know his concern. Then explain how you have had, on other occasions, gone back to your people and explained why a concession was required to attain a greater good. Explain how you approached them. In this fashion, you are very subtly coaching performance.

-When you sense the other person is truly in a situation that the best they can hope for is a loss lend an empathetic ear. If you can support the argument, explain that of their available options, your offer is the best choice for him given the circumstances.

-When the other person is struggling with the process, back off your argument for a moment. Sympathize over having to be in the situation. Share that you don't like it any more than he does. Try to build a personal relationship that will help you reach an accord later.

Negotiating i snot just confrontational sparring. Use different styles to advance your cause and keep the tenor of the discourse civil and on track.


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