Cognitive Salad

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Identification

This is a disorienting tactic to overwhelm and make the other negotiating party give up and retreat. It is a verbal assault which may begin with a grain of relevancy, but then spins to the point where it has nothing to do with the original point of the negotiation. Constant use of this tactic may be a sign of malignant narcissists and sociopaths.

Example

Consider a politician: “These trade agreements have nothing to do with economic growth, they have to do with jobs. Do you realize that if we do this, schools will shut down? I know people: they will not have money for milk, bread, meat, the substance of life itself. Do you know that 40% of the world lives in a food-stressed environment, global warming is putting stress on our crops, and things will only get harder? My constituents will not be able to afford electricity or water, their bellies will grumble. Do you know that can lead to ulcers? Our antibiotics are becoming resistant, resulting in serious illness. Do you know that lack of proper nutrition creates diabetes? If you want to agree to lower the tax on this trade agreement, go for it, but I can’t be responsible for the lives it will cost. No sir, we need this tax now.”

Solution

In a polite society, we often do not call people out on their irrational behavior. A negotiator must learn otherwise, as the solution to this is to simply call the person on it. Firm and clear exposure of the tactic will usually cause the user to quickly back down, especially in public settings. They may double down instead, and if the cognitive salad persists, unfortunately you must disengage. There is no profit in this dynamic, only frustration.

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