Friday, 19 October 2012

Negotiating - The Importance of "The High Ground"

Just a little background on the concept...

Having The High Ground: Military

  • A position of strategic importance in bygone times.
  • A position easily defended and maintained.
  • A location from which a conflict is more easily and safely observed.
Having The Moral High Ground:
  • Being able to know what you believe or do is 'right'.
  • Makes a person more qualified to assess the validity of the actions of another when comparing those actions or beliefs to the actions or beliefs of the person who is already established as being in a "morally sound" position.
Whenever you find yourself in conflict with another person or persons, it is always beneficial to assess what constitutes the "high ground" in the argument. The high ground is a place from which it is very difficult to displace someone and whether your struggle is military, political, or legal, having this position gives you the upper hand in when it comes to establishing final terms to resolve the conflict.

Let's lighten this up before I get too serious...
See? Kittens. Mood lightened.
The reason I am writing this post is rather simple, and relates (as most posts do) to events currently unfolding in my life. In this case we are talking about a disagreement between myself and an acquaintance of mine regarding a financial matter. To clarify things without actually releasing any real details we disagree over how things should proceed regarding my share of the cost of a purchase that has been made and she is insistent on changing our original agreement to one that suits her needs now without regard for my concerns.

  • An agreement was reached wherein payment FROM me would occur when my share of the order was handed over to me. "Cash on delivery".
  • The order was placed on credit.
  • Unbeknown to any party involved, the order's delivery date was such that payment of the credit account would be required BEFORE the order was completed (before the 'delivery' portion of "cash on delivery").
  • My acquaintance has now requested payment for goods that I have not received (something I am not required to do under our standing agreement of "cash on delivery").
  • Talks have begun to come to a new agreement that would replace the original "cash on delivery" contract.
Simple enough right? Well it isn't working out so simply but this is where my lesson to you on the "high ground" comes in.

If you haven't already noticed, I hold what we can call the "high ground" in this situation. The previous agreement cannot be altered or negated unless all parties involved agree on a new arrangement. I have offered new terms for an agreement and they have been rejected, though no truly new terms were offered as the principle for the rejection was basically "I'm not willing to compromise." Now legally speaking we've come to an impasse... The equivalent of what a courtroom setting would call "a hung jury" where no decision can be reached. My acquaintance unwilling to negotiate a compromise while I have the backing of the original agreement and no leverage or collateral is held against me and the original agreement cannot be breached. In the end, only two options are available to my acquaintance.

They are:
  1. Refuse to negotiate mutually agreeable terms to replace the original agreement and thus be held to the original agreement's terms.
  2. Negotiate to establish new terms.
At no point in this, due to the clarity of the original agreement, can I be REQUIRED to change my stance on the issue as the standing agreement favours my argument and cannot be changed without my consent. This folks, is called the "High Ground". I cannot be made to move by any force other than my own will, which allows me to dictate how far I move, IF I move.

Now for some A/V aides...

Enjoy the duel, but take note of the ending.

For the most part, THAT is what happens when arguing against someone who holds the conflict's high ground. You waste time and energy by refusing to bargain when you have no leverage or tactical advantage to use against them. I guess I really posted this to let the issue off of my chest but I think a valuable lesson can be learned here. The first thing you should do if you ever find yourself challenged by a person, persons, a system, regardless of what the opposition might be, manage to find yourself a piece of "high ground" and then hold onto it. If you cannot but moved, but your opponent requires you to move in order to reach an end that accomplishes their goals even partially, then they MUST agree to your terms. This position should not be abused though as the abuse of power only leads to resentment. If you have the advantage, although you may not NEED to offer terms other than those strictly beneficial to you, it may be a better choice in the long run to make some concessions regardless of your influence on the matter. Be respectful, but don't be a doormat.

Hope someone took something useful from this. I know it took me a long time to recognize how easy it can be to get yourself a slice of an argument's high ground and wield it to your ends... It took too much longer to learn how to wield it responsibly and in good taste.

Enjoy your swim!

Joshua J. Taylor

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