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The Power of You

Tom Feinson

I was walking up the escalator on the left-hand-side as you should (British you know), when I came across a guy stood, rooted to the spot, inactive, motionless, stationary, sprouting roots. My blood began to gently boil but being British (again) I did nothing about it and politely waited until he looked around before I delivered what was really quite a dirty look, definitely in the top third of dirty looks I give. Surely everyone knows that if you are travelling on an escalator it’s to the right to stand still and to the left to walk. Behavioural economists describe this as a norm, of which there are many, in this case an implicit norm i.e. not openly stated or formally codified but accepted socially through the day to day interactions of groups. Humans have created societal norms (Herd mentality) primarily as a positive approach to survival.

A cognitive bias is where an individual’s thinking deviates from what would be considered desirable against accepted norms. In this case, the offending party may not have been aware of the implicit norm, not considered it to be important or maybe was in active state of rebellion, they saw the world differently.

A negotiator is well served taking cognitive bias into consideration, or as we call it negotiating “Gates” because they can lead to a blinkered state of mind which makes our performance inflexible, self-limiting and one-dimensional.

Which brings me rather neatly to Jeremy Corbyn’s car crash of interview with Andrew Neil, if you haven’t watched it you should it’s excruciating. A bunch of you are now scrabbling to get onto BBC iPlayer just to watch someone’s discomfort, the Germans call it Schadenfreude and it is why so many people used to watch public executions, social norms, eh.

The first 10 minutes is spent with Andrew Neil punching Jezzer on the nose about his record on antisemitism. A record he desperately tries to defend. In commercial terms think of an aggressive buyer attacking his seller on delivery or quality performance. Corbyn probably genuinely believes that his and his party’s record is very good but that’s not the point, the Jewish community don’t and the facts support that view. We call this the “Me myself and I” Gate, a tendency for our perceptions to be biased in our favour. We assess the information available to us and decide upon an interpretation that suits and then look for a way to justify that interpretation to ourselves and critically to our opponent.  Defending the indefensible is rarely a sensible approach. Corbyn dug himself deeper and deeper into the hole Mr Neil had created for him as he got more frustrated that his argument wasn’t winning the day which led to another Gate known as competitive arousal where feelings of rivalry are increased leading to a need to win at all costs but generally meaning that both parties become polarised. By now the Jezzmeister is visibly irritated and starting to lose a little self-control. In the court of public opinion arguing against the normative belief is unlikely to win the day. A trained negotiator knows that one of the most common “Gates” negotiators butt into is trying to win the argument rather than the objective. Whether you agree with it or not it’s much more effective to acknowledge that the other party has a legitimate point of view that needs to be taken into consideration.

If you would like some insights and tips on how to identify and manage your “Gates” download our eBook, The Power of You.

If you don’t, please at least stay to the right. Anything else is just not British!


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