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The Problem with Ultimatums

The first problem with giving an ultimatum is that it can be accepted. You may believe that you have the power in a negotiation. You might believe that that power can be exercised by giving the other party an ultimatum. But giving an ultimatum allows for the other party’s acceptance. And then, you’re done.

Maybe you really believe you should be done negotiating. But giving an ultimatum usually indicates a different, deeper set of problems.

Lack of Strong Relationships

All things being equal, relationships win. All things being unequal, relationships still probably win.

Giving ultimatums often means that you don’t have the relationship necessary to work through the issue and arrive a more positive solution. Strong relationships allow you to work through issues and give the other party the benefit of the doubt. But sometimes you don’t quite have the relationships you need. Before you give an ultimatum, you’re better off asking for an opportunity to work on the relationships, to build trust, and to build a better understanding of the other party’s view.

Ultimatums eliminate relationships … they’re a seriously transactional behavior. They aren’t what people with relationships offer each other.

Lack of Resourcefulness

You are a limitless reservoir of ideas.

Ultimatums are also a sign that you are in an unresourceful state. Your resourcefulness (your imagination and your creativity) allows you to continually identify new options, new ideas, and new solutions. There is no reason to get to an ultimatum when you can instead work on creating alternatives. You need the trust that relationships are built on to get the time and opportunity to work on these solutions. If you’ve got the relationship, use it to collaborate.

Ultimatums eliminate the possibility of identifying and pursuing alternatives. You are a limitless reservoir of ideas. So is the person with whom you are negotiating. The best relationships are built on collaborating to find a way or make a new one.

Instead of giving ultimatums, work on the underlying relationship and resourcefulness problems.


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