The Red Line. Is its use good or bad?

the red line in the sandIt depends. It depends on the outcome that you are looking for in your negotiation.

As we have all seen with its use by Obama, it may not always work with intended consequences. A red line drawn in the sand tends to be an ultimatum. Always be prepared for the results to go either way with an ultimatum. In other words, prepare to get what you asked for.

The Red Line. How to use it? By making threats, or demands, or giving ultimatums, each side to the dispute will assess the other side’s strengths, weaknesses, commitment, and determination. It creates an either/or scenario. The possibility of a middle ground is then eliminated. Is this what you want to do? Eliminate all possibilities but, two?

In negotiation, all doors are left open. The world is your oyster. The two of you can agree on anything that you want. You don’t have to worry about “saving face” like you have to do in the situation of drawing the red line.

In a divorce negotiation or mediation, giving an ultimatum frequently brings the process to a halt. Resistance is garnered; animosity is increased. I have often heard one spouse say, “It’s my house, and I am taking it. I don’t care what you think.” What mostly likely happens after a statement like that is announced? I hope it doesn’t come to blows, but even without the physical component, the emotional blows have been struck. Walls go up, and the fight is on.

Negotiation is more about using skills and techniques around people’s human qualities, such as feelings and thoughts. Drawing a red line, removes all the human qualities, and sets up a decision based upon factors unrelated to the human element involved. In the house situation in the previous example, there are many choices available other that “yours” or “mine”. There could be a sharing of the house, if children are involved. It could be one person buying out the other person’s interest. It could be selling the house, to use the proceeds as each sees fit. Plus many more choices using the elements of time, and functionality.

The Red Line. Think it through carefully before drawing the red line. The consequences may not be what you intended or had in mind.


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