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Effective Negotiators Must Be Critical Thinkers

One facet of critical thinking is when we discern disproportionate numbers in situations, this provides them to think, ask questions and research to understand why. Don’t jump to conclusions. Avoid assumptions.

Critical thinking (CT) skills are essential for dispute resolvers especially mediators, negotiators and neutral evaluators. So what is CT? CT is approaching a situation, a problem in a step by step logical thinking process that is most likely to lead to an effective plan of action and then resolution.

CT includes five components (that will be covered in other blogs): effective persuasion, clear thinking, effective questioning, superb listening and discussion skills.

CT logical steps:

1. Listen*, ask questions* to acquire comprehensively the facts and perspectives, separating facts from perspectives.*

2. Assess, analyze to discern if there is hidden information or not full information. Check assumptions. Use emotional intelligence (EI)*. Who is not being open? Who is lying? What are the conflicts of interests.

3. Clarify the issue (s) using listening and questioning skills.

4. Search for creative options and alternatives.**

5. Create a plan of action or agreement.

*The issue of CT will be covered in 4 blogs: listening, facts/perspectives, emotional intelligence and this one, the overview.

**The component of creativity was covered in a previous blog: Creativity.

CT is arm and arm with Persuasion (The Laws of Persuasion will be the focus of a blog entry 4 weeks from now.). The key formula for persuasion is

-Appeal to emotions; appeal to logic; and appeal to values.

CT focus on logic.

An expert Dispute Resolution Professional Prudence Bowman Kestner puts it this way,

A dispute is like an archeological dig.

That means that Critical Thinkers get out their archeological brush to discover the surface issues and the underlying issues.

Listening: Expert communication specialists estimate that most people listen at about 25% effectiveness level.* In contrast effective critical thinkers listen 3 times as effective as average communicators. Average communicators are busy talking; effective, busy listening. One way they listen more effectively is by planning. They plan for every meeting whether it be virtual, telephonic or face to face (F2F). This planning eliminates one impediment to listening. What a lot of folks do is that while people are talking they are really not listening but instead planning what they are going to say.

Emotional Intelligence (EI): The “guru” of EI is Daniel Goleman** who estimates that 80% of a person’s intelligence is actually EI. EI has several components:

-Do you recognize your emotions?

-Do you effectively manage your emotions?

-Do you recognize emotions of others?

-Do you help them recognize and manage such?

-Do you have effective relationships and partnerships?

Critical thinkers do not hide from emotions. They know if emotions are managed the plan of action or agreement could be more creative and stronger.

When critical thinkers see a situation or a number that is disproportionate, the first thing they think is let’s question, let’s do the research. (If they make assumptions, they check to discern if these assumptions are important and if they are important, they check them/research for verifications)

The Disproportionate Argument: Critical thinkers manage the “disproportionate argument” (DA) differently than most. When most hear the DA, the immediately jump to the conclusion that something is wrong and needs to be fixed. CT approaches this differently and more reasonably. First, the note and value the DA. Second, they do research and ask questions to discern how this came about. CT do not jump to conclusions. CT think through important assumptions to identify their origin. After all of the research, CT then, if necessary create a plan of action to deal with the DA.


-US has a disproportionate number of suicides in the Western World. (7th leading cause of US death-48,000)

-Males disproportionately commit suicide. (35,000)

-Suicide by firearms is disproportionate. (57%)

-Teens disproportionately commit suicide. (2nd leading cause of death, ages 15-34)

-A disproportionate amount of suicides are caused involve alcohol, drugs or despair.

A critical thinker will look at these DA in re suicides in the United States and will inquire as to whether Americans are concerned enough to take action. There are many actions that can be taken including examining firearms laws and promoting early mental health for teenagers. Teenage access to drugs and alcohol should also be examined.


-A disproportionate number (46%) of DC residents do not own cars. (101K households)

-A disproportionate number of new households in DC (88%) are carless.

-A disproportionate number of millennials are auto averse.

-A disproportionate amount of DC households are churning (moving) 2010-2012.

CT will examine these car ownership DA statistics and may discover from DC policies and interview, this is exactly what the growing city of DC wants to happen in order to be “greener.” These policies includes installing bike paths, making streets more pedestrian friendly, designing streets that actually discourage driving and improving an already very good public transportation system. So these DA numbers are viewed by DC residents and leaders as a good thing.


-Why does a disproportionate number of men to women. (80% or 800M of 1B)

-Why is Luxemburg, Albania, Belgium, Russia, Jordan and Syria have a disproportionate high number of smokers?

-Why does Guatemala (171 out of 181 most to least), Ecuador (174), India (176) and Ghana (178) have a disproportionate number of NONsmokers?

-Why does 80% of the smokers disproportionately reside in the low and middle income countries?

-Costa Rica lives off tourism promoting GREEN and yet ranks #111 out of 181 (least) in smokers.

CT will discern that US has conducted a massive campaign to reduce smoking for health and “Green” reasons. The policies seem to be working. US has reduced its smoking pop to 14% rating 146 of 181 (least). (No regional differences.) Australia has done the same and reduced their smoking pop to 14.7%, ranking 147 with Panama=148. CT will be inquiring as to the top smoking countries such as Luxemburg if reducing smoking is a priority. It may not be.

If countries such as Costa Rica want to reduce their smokers further, they may examine the country of Uruguay who has reduced their smoking substantially and there is an agreement that the most persuasive marketing campaign is to display the medical effects of smoking on cigarette packages.


Why is false information including conspiracies, scams, hoaxes and false new stores disproportionately directed towards Seniors (65+).

CT first need to discern if this DA bothers the United States. They will find out it does. CT will discover that Mediawise has expanded its focus beyond teens to seniors hiring Joan Lundon to direct this initiative. CT will discover that Seniors have more free time, more expendable income, are online but not tech savvy and 50% report loneliness 76% of this online connection is via Facebook and YouTube. Mediawise has partnered with AARP.


-Why does Florida disproportionately have the highest number of bicycle deaths, 6.2 per 100,000 (in contrast to Oregon at 2.3) or

-Why does Tampa-St Petersburg has a disproportionate number of bicycle deaths (7.0 per 100,000) in contrast to San Jose 92.8 per 100,000.

Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

CT first need to discover whether these DA statistics both the state of Florida and the city of Tampa-St. Petersburg. If so, action is needed.

CT will discover that “Most of the deaths, the study notes, are due to relatively mundane mistakes on the part of both bikers and motorists: 38 percent of fatal cyclist accidents were caused by a biker or motorist failing to yield the right of way, 10 percent were due to a biker wearing clothing that's difficult to see at night, 8 percent were caused by a failure to obey traffic laws, and another 8 percent happened because the cyclist or motorist made an improper turn.”

CT may create a plan of action that includes additional bike lanes, more education for both motorists and bicyclists, lowering the speed limit. CT will also note that Florida provides for year round biking and for some low income, biking is the only transportation.

Conclusion: So an effective negotiator is a critical thinker (CT). They approach problems, issues, situations in a logical step by step fashion that is most likely to lead to a creative and efficient plan of action or agreement. They use their listening and questions skills to identify both the presenting problem and the underlying issues. They distinguish between facts and perspectives recognizing the value of each. They value well managed emotions realizing that this could lead to more creative and long lasting outcomes.

CT confront disproportionate arguments in this same logical away by using the above listed skills and by doing the necessary research and planning.

When CT use the DA, they use it wisely, well researched and thus are better able to persuade. CT do not jump to conclusions and when they assume they recognize such and research the important assumptions so they are validated.


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