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Are You Irrationally Invested?

by Phyllis Pollack
July 2011

PGP Mediation Blog by Phyllis G. Pollack

Phyllis  Pollack

In her July 2011 edition of One Minute Negotiation Tips (published by the Los Angeles County Bar Association) (Volume IV, No. 6) my colleague Linda Bulmash, Esq. discusses cognitive traps. She notes that, when negotiating, each of us has a tendency to be a bit irrational and agree to something that may not make the most sense or be in our best interest. Then, when challenged, we dig in our heels and become even more committed to our irrational stance. Consequently, we find ourselves agreeing to do something that our “right” brain would never have allowed; our “left” brain got caught up in the moment, causing us to make a foolish decision.

Ms. Bulmash suggests several ways to avoid being undone by our “left” brains.

“1. Be very aware of your competitive inclinations and what triggers them to escalate. Focus on getting the best deal and not beating the other side.”

“2. Avoid focusing on the “sunk costs”/the amount of time, money and effort you have already invested in getting what you want. Those costs have little bearing on the current market/settlement value.”

“3. Strategically focus each of your responses on getting the other side to make the next move that will bring them closer to your desired outcome. The more you stay away from escalating and irrationally committing the less they will feel a need to escalate and overly commit to a course of action.”

“4. Keep your demands in the high but realistic range.”

“5. Remember, people only agree to a deal when there is something in it for them so make sure you focus on answering their WIIFM (What’s In It For Me).”

This last thought is key – What’s In It For Me – ! Most everyone (excluding the late Mother Theresa and other saints) – whether or not they are willing to admit it or are even aware of it – always have their own best interest at heart: they will agree to do something usually because they see a benefit – direct or indirect – to them. This point is an excellent one to remember when negotiating – figure out what is the other person’s “What’s In It For Me”, negotiate with that point in mind and you can most likely reach a resolution.

. . . Just something to think about!


Phyllis Pollack with PGP Mediation uses a facilitative, interest-based approach. Her preferred mediation style is facilitative in the belief that the best and most durable resolutions are those achieved by the parties themselves. The parties generally know the business issues and priorities, personalities and obstacles to a successful resolution as well as their own needs better than any mediator or arbitrator. She does not impose her views or make decisions for the parties. Rather, Phyllis assists the parties in creating options that meet the needs and desires of both sides.  When appropriate, visual aids are used in preparing discussions and illustrating possible solutions. On the other hand, she is not averse to being proactive and offering a generous dose of reality, particularly when the process may have stalled due to unrealistic expectations of attorney or client, a failure to focus on needs rather than demands, or when one or more parties need to be reminded of the potential consequences of their failure to reach an agreement.

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