Written by guest blogger, Brian Gunia.
On a recent wintry weekend, for the lack of a better option, my daughters and I visited “Ridley’s Accept it or Else.” Our excitement over this museum of the odd must’ve been obvious, as the receptionist immediately offered a three-attraction combo ticket.
“And what does that include?” I inquired.
“All our weird and wacky attractions,” she said, “along with the marvelous house of mirrors and the exhilarating 4-D motion theater.”
“Are all those appropriate for a six- and three-year-old?” I probed.
“Oh yes, there’s nothing scary here.”
I should’ve known better. But on this, our first visit to Ridley’s, I wanted to show my ragamuffins a good time. So I bought it.
And I’ll admit it: We lapped up their weird and wacky attractions. From locks of Lincoln’s hair, to a shrunken head, to a T-Rex made of pop tart wrappers, we relished some of the world’s oddest oddities.
But then came the marvelous house of mirrors. A pitch-black maze of mirrors from which several world-renowned explorers have never escaped, it wasn’t so marvelous for my three-year-old. It propelled her into a state of abject fear.
And so, when we somehow escaped and approached the exhilarating 4-D motion theater, she wouldn’t even consider it. Nor could I blame her given the signs about sudden movements and sharp drops.
Appropriate for a six- and three-year-old? The former maybe, the latter absolutely not.
In sum, none of us really enjoyed the mirrors, and none of us even tried the theater. So I was irritated and wanted money back. And my daughters’ impending hunger and extreme fatigue made me want it now.
Operating under the visceral influences of irritation, hunger, and fatigue, I must admit I adopted a negotiation style that my book explicitly criticizes: the monetary mindset. Specifically, I marched up to the receptionist, told her what I thought of her sales tactics, and demanded some money back. In so doing, I was treating this negotiation like a monetary transaction, making the unproductive assumptions that:
- I wanted just one thing (a big rebate)
- I was negotiating with just one person (the receptionist)
- She wanted just the opposite (no rebate)
- For me to win, she’d have to lose
- Or else we’d have to compromise
“Let me call my supervisor,” said the receptionist, followed shortly after the call by, “We can’t give you any money back.”
To the receptionist’s extreme credit, though, she attached another statement to the last: “But we can offer you our latest book on Ridley’s oddest oddities.”
Now, I doubt the receptionist was thinking quite so strategically, but this statement epitomizes the approach my own book actually recommends: the bartering mindset. In offering the Ridley’s book, she was treating this negotiation like bartering trade, making the much more productive assumptions that:
- She wanted and could offer several things (e.g., my future business and the book, respectively)
- She was negotiating with several people (my souvenir-hungry daughters in addition to myself)
- I wanted and could offer several things too (e.g., to satisfy my daughters and visit Ridley’s again, respectively)
- For her to succeed, I’d have to feel like a winner too
- Which we could achieve by exchanging the book for no hard feelings about the initial scam
In sum, the receptionist compensated for her earlier sketchiness by adopting a highly productive negotiation strategy that treated the situation like bartering trade, i.e., by assuming the bartering mindset. Awakened from the visceral influences of irritation, hunger, and fatigue by her sophisticated response, I shed my own unproductive monetary mindset, accepted the book gratefully, and publicly promised my daughters to return to Ridley’s soon. And don’t think they’ll forget it.
Just a funny story to introduce my new book, The Bartering Mindset, which will help you grapple with many of life’s challenges—including the substantially more serious. I hope you’ll join me in learning to negotiate like a barterer.
Brian C. Gunia is Associate Professor at the Carey Business School, Johns Hopkins University and the author of The Bartering Mindset: A Mostly Forgotten Framework for Mastering Your Next Negotiation.