A few weeks ago, we were driving down PCH in Southern California, trying to soak in the last rays of summer. Steve Miller Band’s “The Joker” was blaring out of the speakers. At the top of our lungs, we all sang . . .
“Some people call me the space cowboy, yeah
Some call me the gangster of love
Some people call me Maurice
’Cause I speak of the pompatus of love . . .”
Through our singing and laughing, someone asked, “What does ‘pompatus’ mean?” Some thought it meant prestigious or highly regarded. Others thought it meant suave or debonair. We were all wrong.
“Pompatus” is a made-up word! In fact, Steve Miller has said it doesn’t mean anything. Turns out, the pseudo word was coined not by Miller but by Vernon Green back in the ’50s for a doo-wop song he wrote when he was a teenager.
We all had a laugh about that. It was a made-up word that none of us knew the meaning of, but we all accepted it as a legitimate entry in our lexicons. It got me thinking about all the other “truths” we accept without question, particularly at the negotiating table.
I was analyzing a recent negotiation in which one party spewed factoid after factoid. I knew some of the factoids were not entirely true. However, the other party accepted them as true, which influenced their negotiating strategy and, ultimately, the deal’s outcome. Had anyone simply asked something to the effect of, “What does ‘pompatus’ mean?” they could have sorted fact from fiction.
This happens all too often. Typically, people get away with these pseudo facts because no one questions them. Why not? We don’t want to look dumb or feel embarrassed that we’re asking about things we think we should know. However, in a negotiation, that can be a dangerous practice.
Here’s how to be a pompatus of negotiation:
- Check your ego at the door. Being inquisitive and asking questions is a hallmark of intelligence. Don’t worry about what others will think of you — you’re asking questions to help create the best deal.
- Trust but verify. There’s no need to assume everyone’s lying to you, but when it comes to data or positions that will have an impact on a deal, ask for further clarification and explanation.
- Seek common ground. It’s OK to agree to disagree when your opinions differ, but find common ground to move beyond opinions. This may include defining different outcomes depending on whose opinion proves out in the future.
- Give grace for mistakes. Sometimes, in the heat of the moment, we say things we don’t mean, or we misquote something. Accidents happen. If you discover the pseudo fact was an honest error, help people find a way out.
- Admit it quickly and move on. If you’re the one caught telling a fictional statement — mistakenly or intentionally — the fastest way forward is to acknowledge the error, repair as necessary, and move on. Digging your heels in will not help you. Your ego will recover.
So, whether they call you the space cowboy or Maurice, all of the above will help you keep fiction out of the negotiation equation. The more truth you can find, the more you can speak of the pompatus of negotiation.
We Can Help You Keep Fiction Out of Your Negotiations.
Is the other party getting away with pseudo facts simply because your team hesitates to call them out? We can help! Draw on Scotwork’s nearly 50 years of real-world negotiating experience to get better deals, save time, and create value that preserves and strengthens relationships. Partner with one of our advisers to ensure you have the optimum view of your deal.