My dog Larry, the Briard, who had recently succeeded in catching a squirrel, came up to one of the doors from the backyard at around 9 o’clock one night, right after being let out for the final time that evening.
When he approached the door, I saw that he had an opossum hanging from his mouth, as lifeless as a dishrag.
After some coaxing (and the promise of a treat), I was able to get him to drop the opossum and come into the house.
I then went back outside to pick up the carcass, only to discover that the opossum had been playing possum. It really wasn’t dead at all. It had already walked away. No blood nor fur on the ground, just little footprints.
I was relieved. I didn’t want to pick up a bloody opossum carcass. But it did hit me that it was a great analogy for negotiation.
By playing dead, the opossum gave Larry a win. But, and here’s the key, it was a win that cost the opossum nothing.
Larry came into the house thinking that he had landed the best deal in the world, and maybe he had. In his mind he thought that he was the winner of the battle with the opossum. Yet, the opossum walked away.
In your negotiations, are you letting the other side think that they won?
For example, depending upon the negotiation, it could be as simple as deploying a sixth finger approach, or it could be as detailed as truly figuring out the other side’s underlying motivation and giving them what they seek, so that they, too, are satisfied with the result.
We can also look at “opossum negotiation” from the other angle. Consider whether you’ve been played in the same manner. But, in the end, it doesn’t make much difference if what you received was valuable to you.
Comment or contact me if you’d like to discuss this post.
Mark F. Weiss