Our correspondent @Louploup responding to our piece yesterday ‘Negotiating with Narcissists’, asked for our take on negotiating with sociopaths, some of whom, while clearly not people in other respects, are corporations. So here goes.
Anti-social Personality Disorder aka Sociopathy
A personality disorder marked by a history of irresponsible and antisocial behavior beginning in childhood or early adolescence, typically as conduct disorder and continuing in adulthood. Early manifestations include lying, stealing, fighting, vandalism, running away from home and cruelty. In adulthood the pattern continues, characterized by such factors as significant unemployment, failure to conform to social norms, property destruction, stealing, failure to honor financial obligations, reckless disregard for one’s own or others’ safety, incapacity to maintain enduring relationships, poor parenting and consistent disregard for the truth. Also noted as an important feature is a glibness, accompanied by a lack of remorse and a lack of or lessened ability to feel guilty for one’s actions.’ From the Penguin Dictionary of Psychology Reber et al.
Well clearly there are a lot of corporations that show many of these symptoms too. As for handling conflict with those suffering from this disorder, my tips are, once you have established they are this way inclined:
1. Avoid conflict with them if you can
2. When faced with lying or other dirty tricks , ask for evidence that what they say is the case and verify where possible and keep showing the gap between what they say and reality
3. Where they defect on a deal, retaliate proportionately so there are clear consequences for their actions
4. Do not be fooled by any charm they show that is not backed up by action
5. Disclose little information to them about your interests etc, reciprocating only when you have tested anything they have disclosed to you
6. Recognize their lack of understanding of their own interests and see if there is any way to work round that: probably isn’t but if you have to deal with them, worth a try
7. See if you can involve a strong third party as a witness to any behavior they may throw your way.
8. If you do make a deal with them, make sure it is written down, and that there are clear consequences for not following it, ideally backed up by a court of law
9. Recognize they may exhibit kamikaze behavior completely contrary to their own interests simply in order to damage yours. That’s one reason why I would avoid them. Try to structure things so the damage to their interests dwarfs anything they can do to theirs.
10. Keep your armor on at all times…there is no sustainable trust with such folks.
You can map this on to dealing with sociopathic corporations quite easily. The added observation is that while sociopathic they have far more resources than you, they are also more concerned about public image. And if you think about the Vietnam Peace Negotiations in 1972, while the USA had immensely more military power, the Vietnamese had a strong Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement: to keep on fighting for another 25 years while the US was worried about the four year electoral cycle. So corporations desire for predictability on liability, adverse publicity can actually be leveraged, even if they are sociopathic by inclination…