#61 Condescension In Negotiation

Tony Thai
2 min readApr 20, 2022

There’s really no place for it. Have I done it? Not really. I might have laced a misplaced joke here or there, but I seldom try to make the other side feel stupid or try to embarrass them. What does that ever get you?

What spurred this thought? I was negotiating a software development agreement and the lawyer on the other side (not an engineer) started to explain to me his thoughts on the development process. Telling me how “things actually go.” It was ridiculous and a bit entertaining. So one of two things occurred: (1) he either didn’t do his due diligence and decided to do a very typical move of bs’ing his way through a discussion; or (2) knew that I was an engineer and decided it was a good idea for him to wax philosophical to me about an area that is not his expertise anyways. Neither are good reasons for taking that approach.

To be fair, the same situation has happened to me in the past, but with engineers. I’ve had conversations with engineers that just assumed I was a lawyer and nothing more. They never even bothered to ask the question of whether or not I understood. They assumed I didn’t and tried to bs with me, saying that LOE (level of effort) would be weeks. It’s the equivalent of speaking in a different language in front of a person, only to find out that they are fluent in said language. It’s embarrassing and makes you look like an ass.

What should you do instead?

Replace “Well, actually…” with “Hmm, can you help me understand how X fits in with Y?” Show curiosity in their position and perspective. Don’t assume people are dumber than you or simply don’t understand. I guarantee you will run into someone like me, and I pray that the person you run into is nicer than me when it comes to calling people out on the behavior. You should know that I went to law school for that very reason and purpose. Other folks might be more timid about it, I can assure you that I’m not.