Good negotiators must avoid being a pushover or pain in the neck

April 18, 2005

Last month, this column showcased zero-cost, meaty, registration-free Web resources that focus on the art of negotiation as a way life. Not many would argue that an ability to negotiate effectively at home and at work is a useless skill. But, upon reflection, it's clear that not everyone feels comfortable negotiating their way to what they want out of life.

In the business world, shy people don't get the recognition and reward that perhaps they deserve. By the same token, nobody looks forward to having to deal with an aggressive person. On the continuum between shy and aggressive, smart folk pick the median approach--being assertive.

It's almost as if last month's column led the horse to water, but couldn't get it to drink. So, to put into place another piece of the puzzle we call business life, this month's column focuses on the zero-cost, meaty, registration-free Web resources that will support you negotiating skills. Remember, we search the Web so you don't have to.

Oh yes; remember what you learn here. There will be a quiz later.

Gumption needed
For someone shy or bashful, the level of gut-wrenching interaction needed to negotiate, even ineffectively, presents a difficulty. Shyness is not who the person is. Rather, it's how the person reacts to a situation. In any case, it's a hurdle that one needs to get past before it becomes possible to strike deals that make life better. Renée Gilbert, Ph.D., a "recovering shy person" and Licensed Clinical Psychologist, offers advice to folks who lack the guts to stand up for themselves in the presence of others. So, browse a path to Gilbert's site at If you get nothing else from this site, read Tips For Dealing With Shyness, especially the part about how others tend to view shy people. That alone should be enough to scare such folks out of their shyness.

You can't get better information about shyness than from Bernardo Carducci, a psychology professor at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany and the head of IU's Shyness Research Institute. If he doesn't have the answer, I don't know who would. And if you want a few of his answers, click your way over to  and grab a quick read titled Don't Be Shy. In it, Carducci offers more tips for shy people struggling to cope with life in the business world.

Helping the shy
I don't know if it's the chicken or the egg, but managers tend to be somewhat outgoing. It can be frustrating when one of their direct reports, a star performer, is also a champion wallflower. Being mentored by an outgoing personality can be overwhelming to a shy person. But there's an answer. Daneen Skube, writing in the Seattle Times, explains an effective way to help otherwise excellent employees who can't progress simply because they're shy. Mouse on over to [no hyphens], get the details and put them into practice. Your employees will love you. At least the shy ones will.

The Shyness Institute
Found in Palo Alto, Calif., The Shyness Institute researches shyness, social phobia and related anxiety disorders. The organization posts An Index to Resources for Shyness, a portal that lists 2.5 pages of links to resources for the terminally shy. Where can this be found? Where else, but

Shy and free
Here's a personal growth site that's dedicated to transforming shyness into wholeness and happiness. Kevin Rhea, the site's developer, offers shy people a way out of their self-imposed prison and points them to a step-by-step path to daylight. Although the site is moderately deep, Rhea has the good sense to concentrate the essence of the entire site in a single row of links across the upper part of the home page. Click on these words to get to the meat of the matter. Then, search more thoroughly as you have time. This one is found at

The Mingling Maven
Once a bashful person accepts, despite what their mother told them, that it's okay to talk to strangers, the question of how to do it gracefully will arise. Well, I'm here to tell that shy person that Susan RoAne is the "go to" person for answers to questions about socializing. And her Web site offers great information about the art of schmoozing. As an example, consider the first chapter of her book, How to Work a Room. It's found at While you're at the site, check out the "Schmooze Quotient" and the "For Free" articles she offers to discerning Web surfers, such as yourself.

Assertiveness tips
Once the bashful move past being shy, they can overcorrect and go to the other extreme. When that happens, wallflower behavior patterns change to aggressive tendencies. Although their tendencies may be getting them what they want out of life using such newly-modified behavior, it doesn't endear them to the rest of us right-minded folks running free out here in society at large. In fact, words so clearly signal whether the person in standing in front of us is aggressive. To make clear the distinction between what it means to be aggressive and assertive, read the tip sheet the Organizational Development and Training group in the Department of Human Resources at Tufts University posts at The piece also shows how to select the proper words and phrasing to make it obvious to others that you know well the boundaries of socially acceptable assertiveness.

The next site argues that's not enough. The piece titled Becoming assertive is more than finding the right words to say argues that even when you know the words, one must still interact with others. This article reveals the thoughts, feelings and behaviors of non-assertive, assertive and aggressive people. It explains the psychology of assertiveness. It offers tips for giving and getting criticism. The best part, though, is at the end, where it explains how to deal with five classes of people that make you crazy. You know the type - bullies, brats, control freaks, losers, and the slob or neatnik. Visit for the full story.

Massey University in Palmerston North, New Zealand takes a slightly different slant on the matter. In its student counseling Web site page, it offers advice for those who can't say no and for those having trouble dealing with criticism. The material from down under can be found at

An Australian search engine Web site also offers information about assertiveness and aggression. In the article Be assertive and "stress less" found at, Kevin Jones explains why one needs to be assertive. It's summed up in one line there: If you act like a doormat, people will use you like one. Don't forget to check out the rich links at the end of the article.

Assertiveness quiz
After you've had enough of learning about this topic, check your retention by taking any or all of the following quizzes. You can refuse, of course. You're assertive enough to do that now, aren't you?

The first self-assessment quiz, How self-assertive are you?, is by Donald A. Cadogan, Ph.D. and Oak Tree Counseling. This 10-question quiz (with scoring key) is found at The second is posted by the Head Injury Hotline at TG & Associates, LLC posts the third at

The exception
This month's column is trying to convince you that it's better to be assertive than aggressive in your negotiations. In the next Web site, Dr. Mel Schnapper, a Chicago-based career consultant, argues for one exception to this generally accepted guideline for harmonious social interaction. That exception concerns job hunting. An article, titled Job Hunters Learn Aggressiveness Pays in Tight Employment Market - Workshop Motivates People Out of a Passive Posture During Job Search, highlights one of Schnapper's seminars and lays out his reasoning. If it's dog-eat-dog in your world, you might as well click your way on over to to get your teeth sharpened.

Something completely different
A significant part of the art of good management involves an ability to make effective decisions while relying on nothing more substantial than insufficient information. It's a challenge to be able to recognize your limitations and temper your judgement when it's time to decide. Given that you have no information about the subject matter of the next quiz, browse over to Richardson's Self-test of Overconfidence, which is found at Good luck.

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