Ask Alignor

Why can’t I control other people?

It can be tempting to fantasize that we can control other people, particularly when those people are difficult and they refuse to do what we want them to do! Unfortunately, the idea of controlling other people is nothing more than a dream (and an unhelpful dream at that)! On the other hand, control of the negotiation process is both possible and one of the most effective ways to affect negotiation outcomes. For this reason, difficult (competitive) negotiators put a lot of energy into trying to control the process. For this same reason, you should not cede control of the process; you should strive to control the process–without controlling your negotiation counterpart. So how does one control the negotiation process? In short, by rewarding good behavior and punishing bad behavior. What do we mean by “good’ and “bad” behavior? When your counterpart engages in behavior that furthers your efforts to satisfy your interests, that is good behavior. When your counterpart does not care at all about whether your legitimate interests are satisfied, this often leads to bad behavior. Without manipulating your counterpart, you should use the negotiation process to encourage them to understand that good things will happen when together you find ways to satisfy both of your interests.