Negotiating Business Deals/negotiation
At first blush this may not seem like it has anything to do with negotiating. However as you read my question, hopefully you will see why I chose this area to ask it in.
I was on the telephone with a woman who is the "supervisor" of a local office where you give complaints about professionals in my state. I was calling about a veterinarian.The woman was bullying me on the telephone and telling me not to tell her how to do her job. She was also insulting me. Her rage stemmed from her perception I was telling her how to do her job. In fact I was cool as a cucumber with a non-hostile tone of voice. I was calm and at no time disrespectful. And I was being that way on purpose. I needed her help and was making sure that even though she had lost control, I was not going to. I felt in a way I was in negotiations Trying to get something from the other person..in this case for her to open my complaint vs. telling me I have no complaint. I really felt stymied by her abusive speech but since she is the person you have to go through, I hung in there. When the conversation was over i was very upset on the inside. Although I do not know her and have never met her, she was personally attacking me during the conversation. For example she said something along the lines of "This event with the veterinarian happened months ago. How do you even remember it? I myself asked you a question and you said you didn't remember. If that is the case how is it you remember other things but not some things. You must have been grieving and confused when all of this supposedly happened. That being the case, you can't remember anything, can you?". She was truly out of her league with the presumptions. And I was starting to smart on the inside from her off handed remarks. How does someone stay in a conversation with someone who is being abusive when you want something from them and they are the person you have to go through? I am sure this comes up in business often. You are speaking to the head of an agency for example but that person is "the" person you have to deal with. Any pointers would be helpful. Thank you so much!
Sorry to hear about your difficulty with this person.
First off, I would say that yes you are right: issues such as this ARE negotiation, and yes it does happen in a business context all the time (unfortunately).
To your question: "How does someone stay in a conversation..." : That is an appropriate way to put it, because most of negotiation is just that, a conversation, and if you can't stay in it, well, there is no conversation.
My initial thought here is to view all things from the other's perspective - as much as is possible. In every negotiation/debate/discussion there are opposing parties, to varying degrees of disagreement. Here, you are trying to report a complaint and she is trying to mediate that complaint. I'm sure her job is not to take anyone's initial word on a professional engagement and whip out a file on the person. She likely is required to investigate and get as many details as she can, in an attempt to verify the complaint.
As such, she is likely going to take the side of the professional, at least initially. So, you and she are "opposing" parties.
Seeing the issue from her side, she most likely tries to reduce complaints to minor disagreements. Otherwise, anyone with an agenda could simply call up, rant about how bad a person is, and get some dirt circulated on that professional. I could see unscrupulous local competition making use of this....
However, if the complaint had reasonable evidence, was detailed and clearly communicated, and the supervisor still seemed hell-bent on denying it, she HAD TO HAVE A REASON.
Figuring out the motives of an unreasonable (or reasonable) opponent is the art of negotiation. This person might:
1. Have known a veterinarian who was the subject of the complaint (or guessed she might know) and didn't want to agree with you
2. Have been thinking that you were telling her what to do, and focusing on that, so she wasn't listening to your complaint
3. Have had a horrible day
For these reasons, and possibly countless more, she chose NOT to agree. And, if she was insulting in her approach, she was using Ad Hominem argumentation, which is evidence she did not want to be reasonable but rather wanted to be mean.
Conclusion: if there is no other person higher up to appeal to, you might consider these options to get through to her:
1. Apologize. Even if you did nothing wrong, most people are suckers for being apologized to. It makes them feel good, and they might get reasonable with you after an apology.
2. State in your own words what you think she wants you to know. In other words, if you think she wants you to believe the veterinarian complaint was not justified, you could say: "Ok. I know you think because of _____________ this complaint has no merit, and you think _____________________, but I want to emphasize that....blah blah blah." This way she gets the feeling you understand her argument as good as she does. It goes a long way toward an agreement.
3. Mimic her conversation style. So if she interrupts, you interrupt back. If she talks fast, you talk fast. If she raises her voice, you raise your voice. Why? I don't know why this works, but it does. Using the same style of argumentation (with good taste, of course) is very effective to get someone to listen to you. It makes them feel they are on equal grounds with you.
While there is no surefire way to solve an unreasonable person's argument, there are some methods that help. I hope these are useful to you.