Don't Argue to Win in Negotiation.jpg (1)

Don't Argue to Win

Published: Jan 16 , 2018
Author: Ben Byth

Too often we fall into the trap of continuing to ‘argue to win’ when it clearly isn’t working. Don’t get me wrong, I like to win an argument, but continuously fighting a losing battle doesn’t serve any good purpose. 


Let me give you an example of why ‘arguing to understand’ is much better than ‘arguing to ‘win’. 


My wife and I are selling our Sydney property and recently had a difference of opinion around when we should start our campaign. I believed we should start early before the market is flooded with panicked stock, whilst my wife believed that by starting early we may inadvertently exclude part of the market who are still on holidays. Both of us were concerned about timing given the softening Sydney market and adamantly believed we were right… and were trying to convince the other party (arguing to win) 


Believe me when I tell you, my arguments were falling flat with my wife… and her arguments were performing similarly with me.  


Recognising the escalating conflict, I changed tack and asked questions.  

  1. Why do you want to wait? ‘Because I think people are still on holidays in January’ .
  2. Is the implication that you are concerned we may not have enough interest? ‘Yes’ .
  3. Just suppose we started mid-January for an early February auction, and we did find that interest was low. If it were possible to extend the campaign at that point by an additional 2 weeks, would that satisfy your concern? ‘If we can, it would satisfy my concern' .


Through asking some questions to understand and explore (arguing to understand) we very quickly moved past the difference of opinion regarding start date. She agreed to an early start date, providing she could move the auction if she felt it was necessary. What we had argued over for days was resolved in under 60 seconds.  


Why was I making it so difficult by trying to persuade her?  


Good negotiators are comfortable with differences of opinion. It is my job as a negotiator to understand her position and trade one thing off the other. I traded control of the auction date for control of the start date.  



2018 Ben Byth v2

About the author:

Ben Byth
Ben’s background is in commercial business to business sales. Leveraging studies in organisational psychology, Ben’s previous role was responsible for growing Profiling Online’s bespoke leadership assessment business locally and abroad across industries such as Banking and Finance, Insurance, Travel, Engineering and Professional Services.

Read more about Ben Byth

More posts by Ben Byth

Latest Blog:

The Ultimate Game Theory Strategy

‘The Prisoners’ Dilemma’ is a popular game theory example involving a two-person game of strategic interaction. One version is as follows. Two prisoners are accused of a crime. If one confesses and the other does not, the one who confesses will be released immediately and the other will spend 20 years in prison. If neither confesses, each will be held for only a few months. If both confess, they each spend 15 years in prison. This creates a paradox in decision analysis in which two individuals acting in their own self-interest do not produce the optimal outcome...

Latest Tweet:

Scotwork Negotiation Australia
Level 17 / Suite 2, 25 Bligh Street
02 9211 3999
Follow us
Scotwork CPD 2020