Negotiation Considerations, Part 1: Impasse is a fallacy


Sometimes I forget the things that I know because I am so intent on continually learning more. After I wrote my last blog post and referenced my Dad’s comment that I should never look like I’m giving up, I started to think about what the topic is: negotiation. Dude, seriously, I almost completely disregarded a significant portion of my career and education [no details, too much risk of identification and all that].  I thought to myself that this is *exactly* what happens when one’s amygdala is hijacked and they totally forget how to use knowledge and skills. Emotions run the show!

Ah ha! Not any more. 

Let’s start from the top: the concept of impasse is a fallacy in the mediation and negotiation world. Something that looks like an impasse can be any combination of one or several of the following impasse imposter dynamics:

  • One or both parties gets stuck in their position and cannot “hear” the other party’s conciliatory efforts.
  • Saving face is or may become an issue (ego) that is far more important than a mutually agreed upon outcome.
  • Internal needs and wants may not have been brought to the surface or satisfactorily addressed by one or both parties.
  • The appearance of causing a deadlock by the one who refuses to negotiate is an overt demonstration of a power trip.
  • The party who is riding the power trip holds an inflated view of their importance and/or the amount/type of power they believe they have over the other party.
  • One or both parties fear loss of control.
  • One or both parties has underestimated the other.
  • Scare tactics and intimidation have become a dominant part of the interaction.
  • The matter could never have been negotiated to consensus in the first place as agreement was so far beyond the scope of possibility that the negotiation was unrealistic before it began.

…and the last and most important smokescreen for an impasse imposter:


[A dare? Seriously? Why would anyone do such a risky thing to jeopardize the whole of the agreement over one refused item? Isn’t that throwing the proverbial baby out with the bath water?]

Yes. If the threat (response from the receiving party) was determined not to be credible by the issuer of the ultimatum.  In other words, the party who issues the dare – or the ultimatum – by using a forced negotiation style, must believe with a high degree of certainty that the risk of them not getting what they want is low (i.e., the receiving party will back down) and therefore the issuing party will most likely get what they want in accelerated fashion: compliance.

The is a zero/sum or scorched earth move. Zero/sum negotiations are pretty rare in that the majority of people facing negotiations desire a mutually agreeable outcome, unless they are psychopaths – that’s another blog, for another day. Zero/sum destroys relationships of all kinds and creates an environment that is driven by compliance out of fear.

So, in my case, H essentially issued an ultimatum that he would not accept* the separation if we were not already in couples counseling prior to my moving out (with the hope that counselor would give the thumbs down on the separation). He knows I cannot possibly make this happen in the timeline that I want. Therefore, H clearly expects the following outcomes as a result of his zero/sum move:

  1. He’ll wear me down, as usual.
  2. I won’t move out unless or until he gives me permission.
  3. He’ll get the counselor to act on his behalf with no culpability whatsoever.
  4. I’ll give up and cancel my lease and go back to being wallpaper.

Notice that in 1-4 above, the intended outcome is zero (me)/sum (him). Winner takes all.

(Hey, that’s an awesome way to fix your marriage YOU DOLT!)

But remember, in order for his tactic to work, the threat in answer to the ultimatum must not be credible. He does not see or care that I have options. He has completely disregarded that I have the next move. He has counted me out of the game and assumed I will acquiesce.

Not gonna happen.

Part 2 will explain why.

* not accept it? What the hell does that mean anyway?


5 thoughts on “Negotiation Considerations, Part 1: Impasse is a fallacy

  1. There were no negotiations during my separation. I was told by her boyfriend that I had to accept all of her…including her poly nature and that she wanted to have many lovers. I didn’t have a choice. It’s taken me this long to accept the fact that I never had a choice all along. No wonder I felt like I had no control over my life. No wonder I started I controlling what little I could. And wow, once I really came to understand the nature of our relationship…the more I realized any control I had was just an illusion.

      • It would have felt better if she wasn’t already wearing a ring from him….running everything through him as a filter, etc. I asked her why she couldn’t just have friends without having sex with them…apparently that was never an option

  2. Wowzers. Too many pathologies running rampant there…and I’m “not that kind of doctor!” lol! Seriously though, I’m sorry you went through that on top of the rest of the stuff that still continues.

    • For the record, all control we think we have – especially as it relates to or depends upon another person – is an illusion. Such are the reasons that a healthy foundation begets trust. Therefore control is not needed and cooperation takes its place.

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