#37: Build your counterpart a golden bridge

Business is (sometimes) like war. It’s all about handling conflicts. Every single day there are some battles to stand. Some fights to face. In workshops or meetings. Discussions or arguments. Negotiations or mediation sessions. Sometimes you’ll loose. Sometimes you’ll win. Being a good loser is hard enough. Being a good winner is even harder. Business is personal and you always meet twice. It’s important that everybody can save his face.

In The Art of War, the ancient chinese military general Sun Tzu explained 13 aspects of warfare. Most of his strategies and tactics (which are actual more than 2000 year old) match perfectly todays business. From general Sun Tzu comes rule #37: Build your opponent a golden bridge to retreat across. 

Assume you’re in a customer meeting. A senior manager confronts you with some statements which deviate from reality.

  • You could either start a discussion to prove that your client is wrong. You would make him / her lose his face in front of the other attendees. Your counterpart would fight “for life”.
  • Or you could swallow your pride, ask guiding questions and open for the possibility that both of you have different information or different viewpoints. You would give your counterpart a chance to avoid fight. You would make it easy and attractive for your client to “roll back”.

Build your counterpart a golden bridge. Give your opponent a chance to avoid fighting. If you pushed someone in a corner, be sure there’s a door left to escape.

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