The Authentic Negotiator

The Authentic Negotiator

How would you manage being true to yourself when others ask you to negotiate an outcome you don't agree with? 

This was a situation decorated U.S. Airforce officer Harold Sigmoid confronted when he was asked to serve on a military commission. He was put into a situation where he was expected by his superiors to argue against lifting the ban on gay, lesbian and bisexual citizens serving in the U.S. military, through the 2010 repeal of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Act.

After years of keeping his sexuality a secret, Harold now had an important decision to make. Did he disclose that he was in fact gay, and hence agreed with the lifting of the ban, or continue to conceal his sexuality and please those he reported to by advocating that the ban should continue?

Harold’s decision was to disclose his sexuality to his bosses, and wife and daughter. By doing so Harold was not only true to himself, but he also created the conditions for different discussions with those on the military commission, whose views he wanted to change.

Harold’s story is a useful reminder that deciding whether to compromise on being authentic is ultimately the result of a negotiation you have with yourself. To make this negotiation easier, authentic negotiators place a high value on having a free conscience, and recognise that by making it easier for others to verify trust, they improve outcome predictability. They also know that not being authentic may come at a price.

Firstly, concealing your true thoughts causes you to contain emotions that if left unchecked have the potential to negatively affect your mental and physical wellbeing.

Secondly, withholding important information denies others the opportunity to find common ground that could accommodate your real thoughts and feelings.

Thirdly, by not being true to yourself and others it becomes less likely that any agreement you reach will last.

To help choose whether to be authentic, our self coaching tips consider a few ethical questions:

Self-coaching tips

  • What will those I respect say if they find out I am not authentic?
  • What would I say if I, or those I care about had to negotiate with someone who is not authentic?
  • Is the decision not to be authentic morally and socially acceptable?


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