Negotiation – A Greek Tragedy? Part 2

Here is the second part of "A Greek Tragedy," from Michael Campbell, an experienced consultant whose area of specialism includes negotiation training. In Acts 1 and 2, he covered Power and People, with a definition of a “Greek Tragedy” in the context of being metaphorical with the events – supposed “Negotiations” - between the Euro Zone and the Greek Government. in Acts 2 and 3, he covers Ploys and Persuasion. 

A play, film, television programme, or other narrative work that portrays or depicts
calamitous events and has an unhappy but meaningful ending.

If you feel that these definitions strike a cord with the recent events - it could bring us to the old debate about whether art imitates life, or life imitates art!! However that is for another time. So, back to our “work” in five parts:

Act Three – Ploys


Greek tragedy

Ploys are essentially the manoeuvres and  tactics used in whatever situation (here – the Trojan Horse - a concept still much used today!). We are considering the use of ploys by the participants in negotiations – of which there are numerous. In fact, this seems to be the negotiation element most (over?) employed and focused upon in the recent potential “Grexit” negotiations.

When deciding on a particular ploy(s) it is vital to think through the ongoing consequences of those chosen. Might you win the battle and lose the war? Might you “win” but set up problems for the future i.e. what goes around, comes around? Might you even find that after using certain ploys that the first deal is no longer available and you have to settle for a worse one? I.E. what happened after the Greek Referendum!

The key aspects in deciding what actual ploys and types of ploy to use are to understand:

  • The “importance” to both organisations e.g. is it strategically critical or routine day-to-day?
  • The type and duration of the relationship which will best serve both organisations’ needs.
  • How will the other side view and react to your manoeuvres and tactics?

So, the “Morals” from Act Three are:

α . Do not jeopardise the “big picture” for the sake of a quick (macho) win.
β.  When offered something, “thank and bank” but keep asking for more.
¥. Different people will react differently to the same tactics.
δ. Listen to, and study, the other side  and to try gauge what ploys they are seeking to use on you.

Act Four - Persuasion


greek tragedy 2So who are the best “persuaders”?  Any fathers out there with daughters may have a view – and the experience – to suggest an answer!! (Here we have Aristotle and Alexander the Great – both persuaders in their own ways!)

We at NRI, coach people in five key persuasion techniques. It is fundamental to understand the difference between the different types of persuasion methods i.e. one-way and two-way movers; or e.g. threat and emotion. This is also where “culture” becomes an important aspect.

Often this only focuses on national/ethnic cultural characteristics – and in generalised terms.  However, organisational and functional cultural dimensions are also relevant. For instance, is the culture in a government treasury department the same in “Mediterranean” Europe as it is in “Scandinavian” Europe? Recent events may illustrate this point. But also, is the culture of a Finance team in the UK Construction industry the same as a Marketing team in the UK Drinks industry?

Depending on the “cultural environment” the use of “Threat” as a persuasion method can produce very different results. We coach people to use threat carefully, sparingly – never against the person – and only if you can, and are prepared to, carry it out. Viewed from outside of the Euro Zone/Greek negotiations it appears as if lots of “threat” were employed by both sides and contributed both to the problems in reaching a deal and to laying a foundation of resentment for the future.

So, the “Morals” from Act Four are:

α. Carefully chose – and test – your tactics, and try to work out theirs.
β.  Remember “Culture”! But avoid stereotyping!
¥. Be very careful if using “Threat” as a tactic.
δ. Use emotion – but avoid being emotional!


Act Five and the Conclusion – Process & House of Negotiation  – will be with you soon!



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