I live in the Sonoran Desert of Phoenix, Arizona. I love the desert. Contrary to the perception of many, it is very much alive. And the life you encounter here is not merely surviving, but thriving, having adapted to its hostile environment of heat and drought. One such manifestation of this life is the saguaro (sa-war-o) cactus. You know, that tall, prickly, tree-like structure with upstretched arms that typically shows up in Western movies, Southwest home decor, and in my case, our yard?
The saguaro is unique in so many ways. Most notably, it exists only in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona and parts of Mexico; it also takes decades to grow a small amount, yet it outgrows and outlasts most other desert flora, reaching heights of 25-plus feet with a lifespan exceeding the century mark. This species is protected, but it’s also prized by those who have these ancient desert dwellers on their land. I had two of these giants, but I recently lost one after a heavy rain.
After losing ours, I did some research to understand what caused its demise following such longevity (ours was about 125 years old).
The survival strategy of the saguaro has generally served it well. Unlike trees, this cactus roots itself into the earth not by going deep in search of water, but by spreading its roots broad and shallow, sucking up the surface water from seasonal rains. This life source is stored inside the plump body, allowing it to grow very large over time. My cactus was thriving. It was huge, green, flowering, healthy.
So what happened? Too much water!
The very thing that was giving life ultimately became the source of death. Too much water caused it to become top-heavy, and with a shallow root structure, it could not support itself under its own weight of several thousand pounds. Ultimately, it came crashing down.
In my world as a negotiation consultant/coach, there is a most fitting analogy in view: Too much of a good thing can become a bad thing.
Most negotiations usually start where parties come together and spend time discussing, debating, and dialoguing about the conflict at hand — each side taking turns to “make the case” for why their position and interests are superior to those of their counterpart.
This is a good thing.
Using active listening and empathy to build rapport and trust is a good thing. Asking open-ended questions in search of information to understand what is important to the other side is a good thing. Employing persuasive tools of logical and emotional appeal are good things.
All of these pursuits are important, but if you spend too much time here you run the risk of wandering away from the primary issue and chasing surface issues, becoming consumed with minor and irrelevant details. In a word, you become saturated with information overload that can confuse and distract from the main objective you originally intended to address. The process of information gathering has a limit; at some point, you need to act on the information you have gathered and put forth a proposal. This is the primary way to advance the negotiation to reach an agreement or resolution to the matter at hand.
While it is possible to kill a negotiation due to not enough information, it is also possible to kill deals because of too much (irrelevant) information. Stop chasing surface water. Dig deep and build a foundation for your negotiation by planning, gathering, and acting on the relevant information, and you will avoid taking in too much of a good thing.
Save Your Deals!
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