What Happens in the Brain When We Disagree

I happened to see this article, What Happens in the Brain When We Disagree, a few minutes after coaching a client on an important negotiation. The essence of what these scientists discovered by watching brain activity during a hypothetical real estate negotiation is, when people disagreed, their brains became less sensitive to the strength of others’ opinions.

(1) If we sense that the counterparty essentially agrees with our fundamental position we are able to logically consider their evidence, even if it contradicts our position.

(2) If we sense they disagree, our response is dominated by the fear-generating parts of the brain and we dig into a defensive, less logical posture.

This confirms the old adage, Start by establishing common ground, e.g., Philosopher Daniel Dennett on How to Argue.

How to compose a successful critical commentary: 

  1. You should attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.
  2. You should list any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).
  3. You should mention anything you have learned from your target.
  4. Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.

Is there anything about human relations that has not been written thousands of years ago?


He that answereth a matter before he heareth it,
it is folly and shame unto him

Proverbs 18:13



Twitter Log XVIII

TwitterI use Twitter to share brief messages, not more than two per day. You can have them delivered to your cell phone by text message (SMS) or view them when you visit your free Twitter web page. Create a Twitter account and “follow” TonyMayo.

Here are my recent tweets (messages):

A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.

Herbert Simon in 1971
Click here for antidote: http://tr.im/focusin

Be the change you would see in the world. More on Gandhi here.

Character–the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life–is the source from which self respect springs. — Joan Didion

Meetings suck for information sharing. Get together for collaboration, creativity, & comradery plus promises. More here.

To fall into despair is just a high-class way of turning into a dope. I choose to laugh, and laugh at myself no less than at others. —Saul Bellow

Always leave some money on the table. You’ll probably come back to that table. –Tony Mayo

If you can’t walk away you’re not negotiating, you’re begging. –Tony Mayo

For more on negotiation click here.

Prior tweets are here, at Twitter Logs.


©2010 Tony Mayo

3 Rs of Dispute Resolution



DisputeDisputes are inevitable any time you are working with people to produce significant results. What is not inevitable is dreading or delaying the confrontation required to resolve the conflict. Here’s how to get it over within one conversation.

My 3 Rs of dispute resolution are:

  1. Relationship,
  2. Responsibility, and
  3. Request

RELATIONSHIP: Early in the conversation, state plainly the quality of the relationship you want to have with the person. Invite the other person to declare their intentions, too. A client once said to me, “I hope when we’re through negotiating this and we (more…)

The Conversation Contract™

Here is a complete toolkit for implementing one of my most powerful and versatile techniques, The Conversation Contract™. Leading psychologist Thomas Harris, author of the bestselling I’m OK–You’re OK, developed the basic process to help people conduct the most important and stressful conversations in their lives. I have refined it over the past fifteen years in my work with salespeople, managers, government officials, and CEOs to its present form. You can use it for better meetings, telephone calls, and family interactions.

Start with this video and reinforce your skills with the printouts linked below. You may also want to use my 12 Step Program for productive confrontation by clicking here, Conversations that Make a Difference.


Emotions Come to B-School



Wharton research on emotion in the workplace:

Employees’ moods, emotions, and overall dispositions have an impact on job performance, decision making, creativity, turnover, teamwork, negotiations and leadership. … employees’ emotions are integral to what happens in an organization, says Professor Barsade, who has been doing research in the area of emotions and work dynamics for 15 years.

Everybody brings their emotions to work. You bring your brain to work. You bring your emotions to work. Feelings drive performance. They drive behavior and other feelings.

Think of people as emotion conductors.

–Sigal Barsdale
Managing Emotions in the Workplace
Do Positive and Negative Attitudes Drive Performance?



The Psychology of Persuasion



CVR Psychology of Persuasioncvr Psychology of Persuasion


The Psychology of Persuasion

by Robert B. Cialdini, Ph.D.



Robert B Cialdini

Influence is written as a guidebook for the savvy consumer. The author’s conversational style and frequent sharing of personal experiences will certainly recommend it to that audience. My interest in the work is probably closer to that of the typical reader: as a persuasion professional I am looking for specific ideas to increase my effectiveness. My attention has been richly rewarded.

Professor Cialdini organizes decades of research and experience into six easily comprehended categories of influence techniques. Relevant examples from marketing and sales are used to (more…)

Negotiation Skills for Sellers



How many new sales do you need to recover the cash lost in just one poor negotiation? If your net margin is 10%, you would need $1,000 in new business just to cover the deficit from giving away a single $100 discount.

Every dollar that poor negotiating removes from your price is a dollar of pure profit lost; free cash flow you have utterly wasted.

The most shameful part is, because you failed to negotiate well, the customer didn’t even appreciate the bargain you gave away.

Everybody lost!

I have read a lot about negotiation and even written a little, but most of the literature is for buyers trying to get better price and terms. Advice for the other side of the table, the salesperson, is harder to find. My executive coaching client, Raj Khera, CEO of MailerMailer, has just put a superb, free guide for business owners on his blog. Titled Negotiating price: how to overcome price resistance, Raj’s post is concise and practical. Apply his simple advice and increase your profits.

Don’t confuse hard negotiating with heartless negotiating. A deal that doesn’t make sense for everyone makes sense for no one.


Always leave some money on the table.

Never spill blood on the floor.




You may need to return to that room again.



A fantastic book on negotiation



Getting Past No: Negotiating Your Way from Confrontation to Cooperation by William L. Ury

A practical guidebook to “Win-Win” negotiation.William L. Ury

William Ury is not only an experienced high-level negotiator but an acute student of his art who can distill his wisdom into concise, memorable lessons. This book is indispensable for anyone who wants to do well in negotiations, formal or informal, without humiliating or destroying the other side. For Ury and his disciples, Win-Win is not a feel-good aspiration but a profitable practice. As a negotiation style that builds relationships while getting things done, Win-Win is a cornerstone of the “Sustainable Workstyles” we teach at MayoGenuine.

A key insight of his method is the possibility of being “soft on the people, hard on the problem.” Negotiation is so often associated with macho words like “bruising,” “hard-nosed,” and “marathon” that it is easy to forget negotiation is not war pursued by other means. We negotiate as an alternative to battle, not as another version of it. Everyone wants (more…)