The Wild West Of Decision Making in Negotiation


The Camp system adheres to the principle that all decisions are 100% emotional until a decision has been reached. I don’t know about you, but I found that to be pretty disturbing when I first heard it. I tended to blame my emotions for my bad decisions, and credit my intellect for good ones. Emotions can be wild and unpredictable, and in most negotiations, there is no sheriff to keep you safe.

Let’s examine how emotions play out on our internal mental landscape. Let’s say I am making a decision to ask a friend for a favor. Sticking with the wild west metaphor, let’s say I want to borrow a horse. It starts with an idea in my mind that I could ask a friend for this favor. I see myself asking, and then I see problems with asking. I decide not to ask. Decision made. I will not ask. The pressure is off, and my intellect begins to poke around and ask questions. “I could have solved that problem this way”. Now the decision to ask or not looks differently, and my emotions respond to it differently. I say yes, I will ask this friend for that favor. Decision made. Intellect kicks in again and notices a new problem with asking. This changes the picture, and my emotions respond in kind. It is back to ‘no’, I will not ask. Pressure is off, and the intellect looks at the problem. It figures out a solution. New vision, new emotions, it is back to ‘yes’, I will ask.

At Camp, when we negotiate, whether or not it involves horses and cowboys or cowgirls, we are aware of this principle operating in ourselves and our adversaries, and we work off this principle. We work to make the adversary feel comfortable telling us both yes and no. We know their intellect will be kicking in to justify their decision. Their heart rates will go down. As negotiators, we make nurturing statements to help maintain that atmosphere of calm, and ask interrogative-led questions to stimulate their now receptive intellect. In this way we build vision.

Our brain needs to make decisions in order to work properly. Our adversary’s brains need to make decisions in order to work properly. The decisions by themselves are not really trustworthy, but the entire body of work includes a sequence that builds reliably on itself: vision -emotion – decision – intellect – vision – emotion – decision –intellect, VEDI, VEDI, and so on until you reach a conclusion. With persistence and skill, this VEDI sequence builds and develops the capacity to complete a circle that allows us to get a working handle on our problems.A cowboy’s rope is useless alone, but put in motion as a lasso, and you can take down a wild bull.

Similarly, a professional negotiator’s intellect is useless alone, but put it in motion with vision, emotion, and decisions, and you can strike an agreement with the most challenging of adversaries.  

Please share your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you.

William Chase

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