coercive leadership

Negotiation: When to push and when to pull back.

The Cement Mills Hall is the perfect location for a chat.

The weather was much kinder to us for this re-schedule event! Fresh and crisp but a beautiful sunny day … with no wind! A dozen ladies gathered at the Cement Mills Community Hall around 10:30 on July 16, 2022 to tease out this critical topic.

I have to say, since the renovations, the Cement Mills Hall is a delightful choice for a meeting such as this. The heaters take the chill off the air and comfortable seats and décor really make for a perfect venue, especially for rural women in conversation!

Scope of the Topic

We began by defining the scope of the topic. Using an idea from Jordan B. Peterson, I described the three states of a relationship, broadly speaking:

  • You are a tyrant, with the other party a slave to you, or
  • You are a slave, and the other party is tyrannising you, or
  • You and the other party are negotiating within the intuitive norms of reciprocity which governs all our interactions, ie. as equal partners.

coercive leadership

Shared Outcome

We explored the law of reciprocity which undergirds all our relationships. One keen insight which emerged was that every negotiation has a shared outcome. If both parties are cognisant of and committed to, that shared outcome, the prospects of a satisfactory outcome for both parties is significantly increased. Negotiation is a process and might take time to conclude satisfactorily. We talked about the power of planting seeds to assist in navigating a successful outcome.

Am I a slave?

We unpacked the impact of being a slave within a relationship. We tried to identify when we might be  locked in a slave-like relationship. Some of the ideas expressed were:

  • sense of unhappiness
  • anger is being used as a controlling tactic (which often brings a threat of violence)
  • dreaming of the other party’s demise
  • being frequently or persistently silenced
  • feeling disengaged from the commitment of the relationship (sometimes seeing other unrelated ways to retaliate)
  • low self-esteem or other spiralling negative emotions
  • propensity to frame the other party from a negative perspective (constantly identifying faults)

We considered the cost of living out the role of slave. Often we persist in the role of ‘slave’ because we prefer to avoid an immediate confrontation. We discussed the impact of long-term deferral of our needs and how this can manifest as built-up resentment.


Am I a Tyrant?

We touched on how we might identify whether we are taking on a tyrannical role in a relationship. The use of coercion as parents was considered. An area we might’ve delved into further was the cost of taking on a tyrannical role. This could be a subject for a future discussion. We might realise we are acting out the role of tyrant if we:

  • demand predictability
  • are being selfish
  • are being controlling.

Practical Strategies

In the afternoon we turned our minds to identifying practical strategies that can be used when negotiating. The discussion tended to focus on the most difficult interactions as in dealing with hot-headed, strong-minded coercive individuals. The women put forward personal scenarios and we exchanged tactics. Here are some of the strategies identified:

  • Asking questions to help clarify the shared outcome and to assist the other party in articulating their needs
  • Frame how you are perceiving their needs and seek clarificaiton
  • Engendering an attitude of curiosity and fascination
  • Ensuring your emotions are in control; remain calm
  • Consciously create space for the other’s perspective
  • Respond rather than react
  • Walking away when someone’s emotions are out of control
  • Pause, take a breath
  • Choose your timing
  • Have the courage to SPEAK UP!
  • Mirror the breathing of the other person to create affinity and disarm aggression
  • Stand your ground
  • Know your legal position (i.e. being aware of outside support to reinforce your position)


General Principles

Some other general principals identified throughout the day were:

  • Successful negotiation must be undergirded by truth and honesty
  • Clarification of the shared outcome is fundamental for success
  • Aggression is likely to be covering a vulnerability, so responding rather than reacting can be diffusing
  • Don’t wait for a crisis to emerge because of your deferred needs. The sooner you act, you minimise the impact
  • We are all capable of harbouring a ‘Resentment Bucket’. This is a powerful idea to use in self-reflection. How full is my resentment bucket? We need to take responsibility if we are building resentment as it means awe are not asserting ourselves, or not taking full responsibility for decisions made.
  • Learning to name our underlying emotions is life changing
  • I am responsible for how I feel, no one else.
  • Seek understanding not peace [“Do what is right, not what is expedient.” (Jordan B. Peterson).]
  • Women have a propensity toward agreeableness which makes them vulnerable to disagreeable people.

Last Word

We always have a choice as to how we react to any situation. Recognise and embrace the power in you to change your circumstances.

Kathryn Walton, our wonderful moderator, took extensive notes during the day. Here is a link to her notesif you would like to download and probe further.  Workshop Minutes