Darth Vader versus the Care Bears – a lesson in negotiating behaviour

Gavin Kennedy in his book, The New Negotiating Edge, divided negotiating behaviour into three sorts:

  •  Aggressive (or red) negotiators start from a position of distrust and seek to take all they can from the other party.
  •  Passive (or blue) negotiators start from a position of trust and seek to share information with and work closely with the other party.
  • Neutral (or purple) negotiators assume distrust but work to build trust. They trade something they have for something they want.

Darth Vader (user of the dark side of the force that channels negative emotion) is red.

The Care Bears (a bunch of pastel-coloured teddy bear looking things) are blue.

Darth has lost his way in the universe and after wandering through many worlds, he arrives in Care-A-Lot (home of the Care Bears), hungry. Although he found a bag of lollipops on the last planet he visited, he can’t stand them; what he needs is cake! As he takes in the air of the new planet he comes across the Care Bears who have just baked a cake. Being trusting, caring souls they offer a slice to Darth who promptly takes the whole lot, waves his light sabre and demands more. He must be hungry they think, so they bake another…

That’s red versus blue for you. Blue offers something for nothing; Red takes it and asks for more.

On the other hand, as Darth reached for the cake, had the Care Bears (completely out of character), spotting his bag of lollipops, picked up a spare light sabre or two there would have been an almighty fight. And that’s red versus red.

How can you get out of this mess? Well the answer is to go purple and to trade – If you do this for me, then I will do this for you. It’s psychologically better, by the way, to put what the other party has to do first; otherwise they might stop listening after you’ve told them what you will do for them.

In this case, the negotiation might have proceeded as follows:

“Mr. Vader, if you give us a lollipop, we’ll give you a slice of cake”

“Care Bears, if you give me the whole cake, I’ll give you a lollipop”

“How about if you give us the bag of lollipops, we’ll give you the whole cake?”

“Well, if you give me the whole cake, I’ll give you ten lollipops – that’s one each. What do you think?”

“OK, it’s a deal!”