Making Decisions
Cooperation: Why?

“Cooperation #1: Why?” was about why we cooperate
and how to decide whether to cooperate or compete.
This topic is about how to actually do the cooperating.


We could come up with some nonverbal examples of good cooperation
but most of the time cooperation happens through rather complex conversation.
So that’s what we’ll be looking at here.

Cooperative conversations are complex because they need to cover all of this:

1) What each person wants, specifically.

2) Why they want it.

3) When and how they want it.

4) What getting it means to each person.

5) Whether both people will be satisfied with the agreement.


Here’s an example of a conversation in which each needed element is covered.
In this example, you are my employer and we are talking about whether I get a hefty raise.

ME: Hi! Glad you had some time for me. I’d like to talk about the yearly raises that are coming up.

YOU: O.K. Shoot.

ME: Well, I want at least a 10% boost. Do you have that kind of flexibility this year?

YOU: I’d have to give you a lot more than the others if I did that, but it was a good year, so it’s there, yes.

PRINCIPLE #1: What I want and what you want is established. I want 10%. You want it to fit the budget.]

ME: I want it to be 10% or more because, as you know, I came here with the promise that if I did well I would soon match the others on the staff. And I doubt that anything less would match them.

YOU: You’d be paid more than some of the others though.

ME: More than the ones with my level of responsibility, and my prospects?

YOU: Probably not. I just don’t want to set a precedent by giving anyone such a hefty raise. You might expect it in the future and be disappointed when it doesn’t happen.

ME: Sure. That makes sense. I’m only aiming at parity with the others. And if what you give me this year brings me to that level I’ll be satisfied to get more customary increases in the future.

PRINCIPLE #2: Why I want it, and why you don’t are both clear.

YOU: I might be willing to consider the 10%, no more. But I’d have to delay your increase for two months, or give it to you as a bonus. I don’t know for sure, I’d have to do some crunching.

ME: As long as I get it and it is considered as my salary in future negotiations, I don’t care too much when or how I get it. Could I have something in writing to indicate this is where negotiations start next year?

YOU: Sure.

PRINCIPLE #3: When and how are established.

YOU: It’s important to me to keep you, and to keep you satisfied. But I’ve also been thinking about adding some things to your load, especially if I go for the 10%. You know that Charles is leaving, right? I was thinking about you taking over some of his load until we replace him. If you needed it, I could hire someone on a limited term basis to help you out, but you’d be the responsible one and it might mean more hours for a couple of months.

ME: Are you mentioning this now as part of this negotiation?

YOU: Not necessarily.

ME: Let’s talk about that after we settle this then, OK?


ME: I’d just rather not say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to that right now, but we could discuss it later on its merits.

PRINCIPLE #4: You understandably tried to get more out of me. I didn’t budge. You said 10%, not more. I didn’t object. We settled on the minimums we’d be getting from each other. We know what the raise “means” to each person.

YOU: So if you get the 10% you’ll be satisfied and you won’t be looking around at other opportunities?

ME: I can’t say I won’t notice them if they come my way. But I won’t feel any need to be searching them out, that’s for sure. I’ve been excited about our prospects here, and this would make me even happier.

YOU: I expect we’ll be having a conversation like this next year and beyond then.

ME: Me too.

PRINCIPLE #5: It’s settled. Both agree on what it would take to feel satisfied.


This type of conversation takes a lot of time
and every issue that both people consider important
should be handled in this way.

None of us are as efficient at cooperating as our crisp example would imply.
How can we possibly find all that time?


There are so many good things in life
that we simply don’t have the time to go for all of them.

So the first question we need to ask ourselves is how to allocate our time:
“Do I want to get along with this person more than I want
to go shopping, play with the kids, watch TV, read my magazine, go bowling, clean the basement…
or take care of my ailing partner, help my kids with their homework, get enough sleep…?”


It’s easy to tell ourselves we’ll have the cooperative conversation later.
And if resolving the issue isn’t an immediate necessity
there’s nothing wrong with saying “later.”

But if you know you usually “forget” these things
then either do it now or tell the other person
when, specifically, you will talk with them about it.

If you think you are one of the rare people for whom later really means later,
check with your partner to see if they agree.

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