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Mar 23

Understanding Someone Else’s Paradigm

Posted by: Steve Marr

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In business we frequently negotiate as we discuss arrangements with others. At times our paradigm or someone else’s will have a dramatic effect on the outcome of a discussion. Often to obtain the best results, you need to dig deeper into an issue to uncover the background and experiences of others.

I help market franchises to individuals who want to use the franchise idea to launch a business. “Sharon” was interested in a business that provided home tutors for students, and she was well qualified for the business. A key issue came up that threatened to derail the entire transaction. The franchisor required the purchase of a smart car as well as branding the car with the business logo and information. The franchisor understood this marketing was effective. The prospective franchisee was adamant about never using a smart car.  For a time it looked like an impasse that would derail the franchise agreement.


In digging deeper, I understood the marketing rationale the franchisor used for requiring the smart car. I also learned that Sharon’s father was an automotive engineer. When the first smart car came out, her dad said the smart car was a death trap; and only a fool would drive or ride in one. It was her paradigm, her basis for understanding smart cars.

In sharing the background with the franchisor, I was able to help them understand Sharon wasn’t just being difficult by refusing to follow a proven formula. She had significant reasons for why she would not have a smart car.  However, she was willing to have a different vehicle branded. After several back-and-forth conversations, I was able to encourage the franchisor to allow an exception so Sharon could brand a different vehicle. Sharon bought the franchise which she ran successfully.  The key in this instance was helping the franchisor understand why Sharon was so against using a smart car and also for Sharon to understand the marketing value of a branded vehicle.

The example shows how easy it is to misunderstand someone else’s perspective. Another example would be the celebration of Columbus Day. Many in the U.S. celebrate this day as the discovery of and European immigration to the New World.  However there are some who don’t share this point of view. The Scandinavians believe they were here first with the Vikings, and evidence supports their claim. Also those of Native American heritage are not thrilled to celebrate Columbus because it instituted the beginning of losing much of their land and way of life. While I don’t want to get into the pros and cons of the issue, I simply make the point that there are different perspectives about Columbus Day depending on your paradigm.

Scripture teaches us, “The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.” (Psalm 119:130, NIV) A key to understanding others is to allow them to unfold their words, understanding, and experience. Then, listen carefully and allow God’s light to shine on their circumstances to help you understand what you will not have without His light. When you negotiate, especially in serious business discussions, pray through understanding the other person’s background. It will shed light on their paradigm and why they hold it. Then you’ll be in a better position to successfully negotiate.

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