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How is Critical Thinking Used in Decision-Making and Negotiating

by | 4 minute read

Each of us has a preferred style when it comes to conflict. This preference influences how we handle decision-making and negotiating, too. Knowing and adapting your style can make you more effective, especially when paired with solid critical thinking skills. The five styles for handling conflict, from the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument, are:

Competing

High assertiveness and low cooperativeness. This can be perceived as a “winner takes all” approach to conflict. It may not be effective in preserving relationships because it feels like a one-sided and self-centered approach. However, there are some things that are not negotiable, and in these situations, there may be cause to hold a hard line in the conflict. 

Avoiding

Low assertiveness and low cooperativeness. This can be perceived as dodging the conflict or withdrawing from the discussion. It may not be effective in preserving relationships because it feels like disinterest and disdain. However, there are some times when a conflict of any type is not going to be productive and avoiding may allow for a “cooling off” period.

Accommodating

Low assertiveness and high cooperativeness. This can be perceived as being manipulative or as being a pushover. It may make others uncomfortable if you readily acquiesce to their viewpoints or requests because they will feel indebted to you and/or feel you did not contribute your own ideas to the discussion. However, there are times when it makes sense to accommodate others, particularly when something matters greatly to them and little to you.

Compromising

Medium assertiveness and medium cooperativeness. This is a common outcome of conflict. It is positively viewed and getting to a compromise is touted as success. However, there is an inherent problem with a compromise. Both parties have given something up in order to meet in the middle. This means that neither party is fully satisfied. That dissatisfaction may linger if it remains unresolved and become the source of additional conflict.

Collaborating

High assertiveness and high cooperativeness. With collaboration, the conflict is resolved in a way that fully satisfies both parties. Usually, this requires expanding the conversation and looking at a bigger picture. Being vulnerable and able to trust the other party makes it easier to expand the dialogue and get to this stage. It does, however, take time and effort to collaborate. That’s why we don’t always choose this mode of conflict resolution.  

How Is Critical Thinking Used in Decision-Making?

Good decisions are made by gathering good information and evaluating all options. Knowing the decision criteria and desired outcome also improves decision quality. Getting all affected parties to participate in making the decision is also smart. Each of these processes relies on critical thinking.

There’s one more ingredient that improves decision-making by involving critical thinking. It’s conflict.  

Fear of conflict often compromises the quality of decisions. But conflict can be productive. It may even be necessary for teams and partners. It’s okay to engage in healthy, productive conflict with your buyer. Without it, decision quality is diminished and commitment is weak.  

Unfortunately, too many groups value harmony or expedience. They allow 'groupthink' to prevail. They don't press each other for alternate ways of examining the options. They don't debate. They don't insist on every member of the team sharing in the dialogue.

This happens in buyer/seller relationships all too often. Sellers are afraid that disagreeing with a buyer will cause the buyer to be offended and choose another provider. Not enough sellers share decision-making with their buyers. Instead, they gather information and then work alone (or with the support team) to create solutions. Then they bring them back to the buyer and gloss over the portions that suggest a buyer’s way of doing things before isn’t ideal.

Critical thinking demands productive, respectful, healthy conflict. You’ll use it to improve the quality of your decision-making and to challenge your buyer’s decisions, too. Knowing and adapting your approach to conflict will make this less anxiety-provoking and more comfortable for everyone.

How Is Critical Thinking Used in Negotiating?

Negotiations feel like conflicts. Most people default to their preferred conflict mode when entering into a negotiation. This is reflexive, and it happens without awareness of forethought.

Critical thinking can empower you in a negotiation. Here’s how:

  1. You can deliberately choose and adapt your conflict mode. Using the five options above, you can evaluate which mode will make you most effective in the situation and in response to the modes being displayed by other parties in the negotiation.
  2. You’ll be able to spot classic negotiating and argumentation tactics, including fallacious reasoning. Recognizing these tactics will equip you for handling them correctly.
  3. You’ll access both logic and emotion and keep them in balance and be more effective.
  4. You will be more objective as you construct your arguments and deconstruct others’.
  5. You’ll put together stronger arguments with clear cause-and-effect links.
  6. You’ll hear both the content and the emotion in what other parties say and how they say it.
  7. You’ll be asking purposeful questions that bring new information and new opportunities into the negotiation so all the needs of all parties can be met.
  8. You’ll anticipate moves and objections before they happen and proactively address them.
  9. You’ll present information in a way that is trustworthy, credible and compelling.
  10. You’ll get to the root cause of problems and resolve them fully.   
decision-making, How is Critical Thinking Used in Decision-Making and Negotiating

Deb Calvert

Deb Calvert, “DISCOVER Questions® Get You Connected” author and Top 50 Sales Influencer, is President of People First Productivity Solutions, a UC Berkeley instructor, and a former Sales/Training Director of a Fortune 500 media company. She speaks and writes about the Stop Selling & Start Leading movement and offers sales training, coaching and consulting as well as leadership development programs. She is certified as an executive and sales coach by the ICF and is a Certified Master of The Leadership Challenge®. Deb has worked in every sector to build leadership capacity, team effectiveness and sales productivity with a “people first” approach.