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Think fast, slowly.

Alan Smith
Negotiation Fast Slow Converted

Time. The ultimate pressure point. The one thing we never have enough of and maybe the most undervalued variable we have to play with in our lives.

I guess that’s why we are tempted to misuse it. To waste it perhaps. Or to leap to conclusions without thinking and make a hash of things which may force us to backtrack or unpick poor decisions. Or lose out through misunderstanding or expediency.

Little experiment for you.

A bat and a ball cost £1.10. The bat costs a pound more than the ball. How much is the ball?

If you are like most people you will have said 10p. That’s because the fast-thinking part of your brain leapt into action, the cognitive system you used processed the information without engaging. This system 1 is the thing that reacts instinctively and impulsively.

The ball actually cost 5p. Think about it.

How about this, quick answer please.

How many animals of each kind, that’s how many animals of each kind, did Moses load onto the Ark?

If you said 2. Re-read the question.

If you still don’t get it, look it up on Google. Moses had nothing to do with the Ark.

Aside from these being fun little word games, they highlight a fascinating point about how our brains work. Engaging the system 2 part of our thinking process requires us to slow down, take a knee and actually think about what is being said or delivered and then make decisions based on a higher level of understanding.

This is even more tricky when dealing with conflicts or with people who have different objectives and drivers than the ones we have. It is exacerbated when we feel under threat or emotional, maybe even angry at how the people we deal with are making demands of us.

So what do we do?

Well first listen to understand, don’t just wait for the breaks in their language to fill with your own thoughts (most probably created before they said anything). Ask questions. Clarify understanding. Ask them to summarise or repeat what they need or want.

Buy yourself some time to think, take a time out, or take someone with you to an important meeting/discussion who can help buy time for you and help clarify understanding for both sides.

My woodwork teacher said it best back in my school days. Measure twice and then cut once. Great advice. And the best use of limited time.

Wish I’d understood the value of it all those years ago.

Happy negotiating!

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