Negotiators Need To Make Sure They Don’t Break The Law Of Unintended Consequences

by drjim on May 17, 2013

Unintended consequences can surprise even the most experienced negotiator

Unintended consequences can surprise even the most experienced negotiator
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So you think that you are hot stuff do you Mr. / Ms. Negotiator? Well, guess what – you still have to live in a place where the law of unintended consequences rules the land. What this means is that all too often, a negotiation can result in consequences that you never saw coming…

What Are Unintended Consequences?

Perhaps a better way to start this discussion is to take just a moment and talk about what intended consequences are. When we use our negotiation styles and negotiating techniques to negotiate with the other side of the table, we believe that the deal that we reach with them will result in intended consequences. By their agreement to the deal, we believe that we know and understand what actions they will take.

That’s all fine and good; however, along with these intended consequences, there are also a whole bunch of unintended consequences. Unintended consequences are those things that we didn’t count on happening that will happen because of the deal that we negotiated.

A classic example of unintended consequences is what happened in the United States when the national ban on alcohol was implemented from 1920-1933. The goal was to eliminate too much drinking and all of the ill effects on society that comes along with that. The unintended consequences that were caused by this law were the rise of powerful underworld crime bosses who provided the citizens with what they really wanted but could not get: alcohol.

What Can You Do About Unintended Consequences?

No, you really can’t prevent unintended consequences from happening as a result of the deal that comes out of your next negotiation. However, being aware that this is something that is going to happen is the first step in being prepared.

An easy way to deal with the law of unintended consequences is to take the time to ask yourself some questions the next time that you are involved in a negotiation. Give the deal that you are working on some thought and try to see it from the other side of the table’s point-of-view. What actions do you think that they might take once the deal is in place?

In the end this always comes back to the true power of a win-win deal. If the other side of the table feels that they have been treated fairly by you, this will minimize the number of unintended consequences that may result from this deal. However, if they feel as though you took advantage of them during the negotiations, then you need to be ready to deal with a lot of unintended consequences once the paperwork has been signed!

What Does All Of This Mean For You?

If you and I controlled the world, there would be no unintended consequences – everything that happened would be expected. However, we don’t and so we have to live with the unintended consequences that can result from our principled negotiation.

What we need to understand is that the unexpected can happen long after we believe that a deal has been reached. People can behave in a way that we didn’t expect them to. As negotiators, we need to keep our eyes open, detect when this is occurring, and then take action.

We live in a crazy, mixed up world and there is very little of it that a negotiator can control. Being aware that the law of unintended consequences is in effect is a critical part of learning to deal with what life throws our way. Use this knowledge to always be prepared to be surprised!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Negotiating Skills™

Question For You: Is there anything that you can do during a negotiation in order to prepare yourself for the law of unintended consequences?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

We can very easily get all caught up in thinking about how to be successful in our next negotiation. When we do this, we tend to focus on what negotiation styles or negotiating techniques we plan on using in our next negotiation. This misses the point – negotiations are discussions between people and we always need to keep that at the front of our minds

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Ian A May 31, 2013 at 1:02 am

Hi Jim – just found your blog via AllTop. look forward to following your posts. great to meet you thanks for sharing on negotiations.

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