Thursday, February 28, 2008

Work, Work, Work

I've been putting in long days at work. I've gotten a lot done though I'm nowhere near being caught up. I don't expect to reach that for at least a few weeks, if at all.

A fun moment at work today. Our international applications are handled by one secretary. I left her a file to send instructions for an allowance. She only sent our instructions that a divisional would be filed, not the actual instructions for the allowance. When I showed her the file with the reply e-mail from the foreign associate (requesting instructions for the allowance), she got angry with me. Apparently I shouldn't have filed everything in the file and instead should have left the allowance loose. Such would have comported with her "system" while the former filing away comports with mine. How was she to know, this is why I shouldn't leave stickies, etc., etc.

As she was in the middle of her verbal warpath, I fired off: "Look, just please send them the allowance instructions, okay?" And as she drew in a breath to raise the argument to the next level, I quickly added: "I'm sorry, alright. I'm sorry." It was fantastic. I watched the wind literally fall from her sails. I put down the file, turned around and went back to my office.

I cite this as an example of a successful (if not good) negotiation strategy. She was looking for a fight. She was angry with me, with what I had done, and, as I well knew, she was predisposed to be pissed at me for asking her to do other things last week. I also knew that I needed her to send the allowance instructions (I couldn't) and that arguing with her would accomplish absolutely nothing. So I apologized.

Did I think she was right and I was wrong? No. Did I need to apologize? No. I probably could have let her get more angry and raise the verbal confrontation to yelling. I'm positive that nothing truly bad would have come from that, other than angering her more, but there was no reason. If I apologized with some amount of apparent sympathy (which I can easily pull off), then what could she do? She could try and continue arguing, but it would no longer have any reasonable purpose and, despite indications to the contrary, she can be reasonable. When I apologized, she deflated, having nothing more to say to me.

I also cite this in reference to Sunday's car escapade with movie.girl. In that case, I was looking for an apology back, or at least some small recognition of my opinion/view. Instead, she did the complete opposite, using my apology to validate her position while further asserting mine was entirely invalid and incorrect.

Hint for the day: If someone apologizes to you, they are likely trying to lessen the conflict and work towards a resolution. The appropriate response is to acknowledge this direction. For example, provide a counter-apology or recognize that their position may have merit. You don't need to do a 180 or relinquish your position, you only need to acknowledge their apology and take a step towards the middle, common ground.

I'm tempted to write a post about conflict resolution or negotiation strategies. I very well may do so at some point.