Negotiation, Change & Conflict!

I’m certain that most of you will agree when I say, negotiating from a position of bureaucratic strength is easier – hold on to this thought, I’ll come back to it. Let’s spare some time to understand why does the need for negotiation arise? Should it not be bypassed in the interest of speed of execution & judicious use of time? When you dwell on that, you’d realize that we live in a word that is largely inter-dependent… no ‘one’ person is really the in-charge, and if that is the case .. the possibility of the emergence of views of various varieties is real.There can be similar, divergent, contradictory, contrarian, complimenting, condescending and even conflicting viewpoints at times. Any perspective in its entirety is never really about the aspect alone it also always carries the propagator with it and there lies what I call the ‘nessecity’ for negotiation.

For nearly a decade and a half that I’ve been working professionally, have been part of many negotiations to give you a ballpark number roughly about 6K, the arithmetic of that is, 200 intense working days in a year with 2 negotiations each day for over 15 yrs ; ok, hold on, not each of them have been of great consequence. Some have been as flimsy as which color will the wall have, who should represent the org in charity dinner etc .. other have been more intense to do with, approach, structure, technology, cost, careers and sometimes even life-saving decisions (BCP scenarios). Cumulatively, each of them has had an impact on me. It will be unfair if I say, I haven’t evolved from them. I’ve from each one of them and I continue to learn. Here it is important to point out that I haven’t won all of those colloquies; have won a few, lost a couple and have been pragmatic on most – such has been my scorecard. It’ll be safe to assume that I’m not the most successful or even tier 1 negotiator of my herd.

I’m a great believer in ‘change’ for what I consider is for the larger good, I’ve always valued doing the right thing, remaining ethical and have almost always rejected any and all attempts of bullying .. not getting intimidated by favourable position of the person who holds the desire to ‘not change’- has been one of my key strengths. This stance has given me moments of glory and also gloom, perhaps in equal measures. To sympathize with it, you’ll have to understand that people who advocate passionately for ‘change’ actually unknowingly sign a memorandum of understanding which says, “I understand, I’ll not be popular…. I know, I will be misquoted, misunderstood and even seen as someone who is on purpose trying to oppose, create conflicts”. Let us be mindful, every change actually means additional work for those impacted by the change and people inherently are not wired to accept more undertakings (95% aren’t, and that is the reason why only 5% of all the human race is spectacularly successful).

Alternatives aren’t too many : you can choose to drift with the flow, remain sweet, agree all the time, smile effortlessly and have a peaceful life the other extreme is think, suppose, air and oppose & then propose what you think is correct and then add passion and arguments and data and sometime muscle of support to make it happen. The 2nd choice is effort intensive .. it can be excruciatingly demanding, you’ll have to be ready for the uncalled for flake and fire that will come your way and most importantly your going will not be smooth. You basically trade .. short term peace for long-term contentment. I see that as a smart deal ( but then that is just me, I’m not as smart as I might claim 😉 )

The debate fundamentally is about signing up for a ‘value’ and committing to it in its purest form. For example, I haven’t seen one person or one organization that says we do not want to accept ‘integrity’ as our value. You’d hear everyone on record saying we are ‘ethical’ to the point that no compromise on standards is our abiding faith. But then when the choice is thrown open on a day to day basis, not everyone shows the courage to say no to a sum of money or reward that they consider lucrative. Some people may slip for a few thousand, some for lacs and other will swing only when the deal presents millions, billions etc. Then are we to conclude that our world is dominated by hypocrisy?
No, It is not all that bad .. actually!

For people in the right frame of mind with a decent upbringing and sufficient education, signing up for what is ‘right’ is never the unnatural choice. But when practicalities are brought in the scope .. decisions start siding towards the different ‘shades’ of being ethical. On the philosophical plain things are not as complex but real world comes with not only weird circumstances but also a scarcity of resources and time. Every decision that you have to take in business and also in your life has to be equated with its cost .. if you have the money, you’d like to spend it and when you do not have it and the need is pressing … some people, societies, and organizations budge! Then the argument changes to things like ‘Law are archaic, regulations are unfriendly, we have to survive in the cruel world – so we do what we gotta do. Fair enough .. do it .. but then have the gumption to admit it if not in public at least behind the closed doors or better yet to the mirror that you must hold yourself to. But these are strategic decisions .. on a tactical level however one must always try and do it ‘right’ for the resources that it demands are mostly time and effort and not so much incremental cost.

Ours is a diverse society, our upbringing is democratic, all of us particularly love to express our ways so conflicting views will come – there will be a need for a truce! After careful consideration, I’ve put together these three ingredients to effectively deal with situations that surface when you push for change. Let me repeat, I’m not the voice of authority on this subject. If anything I’m a novice!
Patience & Persistence – When the range is tall, climbing takes not only long preparation but also a lot of time in the act, not many scalethe Mount Everest. When the goal is meaningful it demands a lot of time and effort, case in point, Indian freedom struggle wasn’t a weekend tea party. It took, over 2 centuries, millions of people working relentlessly to make it happen. I can write another 2000 words on it .. but I think the point is made in 2 minutes all you will ever get is an illusion of maggie noodle. If you believe in something you have to be persistent, pursue it strongly and be ready for all of its ill effects. For instances.. people who would have naturally liked you will generally take a lot longer to know you well. Some will hate you because persistence is also nagging in the eyes of those who you have to pursue it with. It can have serious implications too:
If you work – that promotion may get delayed .. actually may not come also.
If you are a politician – You may have to lose a few elections.
If a writer – You may not sell enough .. immediately.
But eventually, it will work out – India attained her independence. Madhushala got its due though after the death of its creator. Good thing will happen .. you gotta wait .. and keep working .. things will work out.
Just try and be as sweet with it as you possibly can.
Be ready to be unpopular: People who push boundaries every day are not popular, actually they are hated .. not everyone will bring it up in as many words but then subtle clues are enough for you to know that you are not really liked. A life surrounded by hatred is not easy. When peace gets disturbed it demands double the energy .. triple the passion to make things happen. But it is ok, eventually, history will be kind to you. Tougher victories are always sweeter than the easy ones.
Hope: I won’t dwell much on it .. for I have written extensively about hope .. you can read those articles, they are floating free on the internet. You have to remain eternally faithful that things will improve one day for sure.
Progressive change is imp and you must do everything within your reach to make it happen, all the conflict and difficulties that come with it must be taken with a pinch of salt. Let me end with this amazing piece of art by the great Dushyant Kumar
I’d like each one of you to be that:

हो गई है पीर पर्वत-सी पिघलनी चाहिए,इस हिमालय से कोई गंगा निकलनी चाहिए। आज यह दीवार, परदों की तरह हिलने लगी,शर्त लेकिन थी कि ये बुनियाद हिलनी चाहिए। हर सड़क पर, हर गली में, हर नगर, हर गाँव में, हाथ लहराते हुए हर लाश चलनी चाहिए। सिर्फ हंगामा खड़ा करना मेरा मकसद नहीं, सारी कोशिश है कि ये सूरत बदलनी चाहिए। मेरे सीने में नहीं तो तेरे सीने में सही, हो कहीं भी आग, लेकिन आग जलनी चाहिए। – दुष्यन्त कुमार 

Have an awesome weekend!