Girl Discussing To Camera

Prepare the opposition's case

The benefits of thinking like the other person

Written by Dr. Shaun Ridley FAIM
3 minute read
Girl Discussing To Camera

There is a wonderful activity you can play with family and friends – it doesn’t have a real name, so let’s just call it “Where will you be and when will you be there?”

The activity asks you to imagine you have to meet a specific stranger in New York City one week from today. You don’t know who they are, or where, or when you are supposed to meet them. They know the same things as you.

You can’t contact them in any way before the face-to-face meeting. So the challenge is to work out where you think the best place to meet them is and at what time of day.

More importantly, you need to consider where you think the other person is most likely to be and at what time.

Will you meet at the base of the Statue of Liberty at midday, or perhaps at the iconic neon light tower in Times Square at midnight or, even more pragmatically, you could meet at Grand Central Station at 9.00am?

When playing with family and friends, ask them to write down where they would be and at what time (without giving them any of the clues above) and you do the same. Then, reveal your answers to see if any of you had any chance of actually meeting.

This is a terrific activity to highlight the issue of you needing to think like the other person, rather than only considering your own position. The same message is very relevant when entering a negotiation.

By putting yourself in the shoes of the other party and preparing the arguments from their perspective, you enable some fresh thinking about how you might counter their position and respond.

Those who only prepare their side of the issue miss key messages or signals that can be relevant to resolving the issue. Even worse, they could be blindsided by tactics they didn’t see coming.

Preparing the opposition’s case doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as answering these three questions :

1. If I was them, what would I see as the strengths and weaknesses of my case?

2. What do I think are the major drivers of their position, both the evidence-based and the emotional dimensions?

3. If I was them, how would I open the conversation? What tactics would I employ to gain concessions?

One more small step in the next 24 hours

Before beginning to prepare your position for your next negotiation, take some time to prepare the opposition’s case.

Test your thinking with others who might be familiar with both your position and theirs.

Then begin to prepare your own case.

For every strong argument or tactic you prepare, think about how you would rebut or defend against this approach.

Similarly, ensure your preparation has a response to each major argument or tactic you have identified for the other party.

You are never going to be 100% accurate, or even 50%, but you will increase your confidence level and your level of empathy, as well as reducing the number of surprises that arise during the negotiation.

Ask yourself

What impact could this action have on your leadership success? 

How likely is it you could implement this action successfully?