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The Stranger Things Guide to Negotiation!

Elizabeth Lewis

These past few months of pandemic life have certainly been interesting. With many of our social and recreational outlets taken away or heavilrestricted, new norms and ways of entertaining ourselves have been required. One popular pastime during lockdown has been cosying up and binge-watching our favourite Netflix, Stan and Disney+ series. While many industries have felt the sting of Corona, video streaming services has been one industry that appears to have seen positive growth, with one article claiming that time spent streaming videos has “... more than doubled from where it was one year ago.”. 


Like many of you, faced with the cancellation of my usual sporting activities, cinemas closed, caveats on visiting cafes and friends during the height of lockdown restrictions – I found myself spending a lot of time indoors and quite often in front of a screen... It wasn’t all bad. I introduced my kids to many of the classics: ET; Batteries Not Included, Karate Kid (the original!!) Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and the greatest of all time – The Goonies (Heyyyyyyy youuuuuuu guysssssss!!). 


One of my favourite modern series is Stranger Things – I love the mix of 80s nostalgia, a little bit of sci-fi, horror and humour. A couple of months back I caught up on season 3 of the series and was blown away while watching one particular scene featuring Erica Sinclair - one of the smartest and wittiest 10-year olds you are ever likely to meet. 



In the scene above, Dustin, Robin and Steve are trying to convince Erica to help them with a dangerous secret mission - to sneak in through air conditioning vents and gain access to the Russian’s secret room. How Erica responds is brilliant for several reasons. 


  • To start with, Erica asks some good curious questions. She susses out whether the guard will be armed, whether there might be booby traps or other life-threatening calamities she may face while completing the mission. Not only does this help her understand what is at stake and allow her to make an informed decision whether to proceed, but it also clarifies for her what the other party wants and.... drum roll.... it helps her identify her power in the situation. 


  • Next Erica uses this information to structure their expectations - ‘what you’re asking of me sounds like CHILD ENDANGERMENT’. She makes it clear that what they are asking of her is of great value to them but of great risk to her, thereby signalling to them that if she is to help it is likely to come at a significant price! 


  • Of course, Robin and Dustin try to downplay her concerns and persuade her why she should go through with it - “Don’t do this for us. Do this for America, Erica!”. She doesn’t get sucked in by this. Instead, she totally calls them out on it. This is one girl who values her concessions, which is fair enough given she is risking her life to help them!  


  • Having structured their expectations and deflected their persuasion, Erica then brings her power to the table: “My ability to fit into that little vent is very very valuable to you all!”. 


  • How does she finish off? By leveraging that power and putting a price on their demands – free ice cream for life! 


Well played Erica... well played! 


And what about Robin, Dustin and Steve? Well, there’s some negotiation lessons here for them also. 


We always say there is no harm in giving persuasion a bash - if it works it has cost you nothing. However, don’t overestimate your ability to persuade. It’s not always going to work – recognise when it’s not and be prepared to trade.  


Be careful too that your persuasion doesn’t come across as flimsy BS or insincere and in doing so damage your relationship and credibility with the other party. Be respectful of their position (and in this case great risk!) and instead ask ‘under what circumstances would you be prepared to xyz?’. 


Happy negotiating and watch out for Demogorgons! 

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