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Negotiation: Persuasion Through Affiliation

From the blog of Nancy Hudgins

Fisher and Shapiro in Beyond Reason advise negotiators to turn an adversary into a colleague. One way to do this is to seek out ties that bind, which they call affiliation. Affiliation occurs when we feel that we are “in it” together, (somewhat) like peas in a pod.

Fisher and Shapiro suggest connecting at a personal level. An effective way to do this is to talk about things you care about. I’ve found sharing stories about raising children to be a way to take a business relationship to a more personal level. (I’ve picked up some useful tips, too!) Other affiliations include age, rank in the legal world, politics, religion and common interests such as sports, hobbies, etc. As you might expect, if you are not authentic in trying to build affiliation, it doesn’t work.

Consider calling opposing counsel when you first receive their names and contact information. Set up a civil working relationship on the telephone. Meet them in person. Go out to lunch. Search out common backgrounds and interests. You can take-no-prisoners on the facts and the law, but on a personal level, a more collaborative style can work in your favor. There will be times when you will need to be cut some slack, too.

Remember that the overall goal is to persuade. If the other side feels some affiliation with you, they will be more ready to listen to you. Then you can more easily persuade.

To protect yourself from an affiliation manipulator, they suggest using your head and checking your gut feelings. This advice is similar to Cialdini’s: be aware of what’s taking place and don’t let your emotions prevail.

                        author

Nancy Hudgins

Nancy Hudgins, a San Francisco mediator and lawyer, began specializing in civil litigation in the 1970's. She has represented both plaintiffs and defendants, chiefly in personal injury, medical malpractice, elder abuse and product liability lawsuits, but also in a wide variety of complex litigation, including civil rights, fraud and class… MORE >

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