Just when you think you are making a break through, someone says something and the whole tiresome discussion is right back to where you started, everyone’s talking again and no one is listening. I don’t know about you but I get so wound up by people that do not stick to their agreements?

Recently, I thought I had made great progress with the board of directors of one of my clients. We had been discussing strategy and had finally come to a really neat alignment. The assignment had gone better than expected and I was now looking forward to handing over the operational stuff to one of my Associates. Then, all of a sudden, one of the directors changed their minds and went full circle to his original standpoint, creating all kinds of havoc as he did so.  We were right back where we had started. 

It got me thinking what had gone wrong? Had I pushed too hard, had I not pushed hard enough, was there a hidden agenda that I was missing? I asked myself: ‘what makes an apparently successful negotiation break down, it cannot just be attributed to group dynamics can it’?  In answering my own question, I discovered eight stumbling blocks to look out for…

  1. ‘There is always one in every group!’
    There will always be one person that makes life difficult. It can be that they simply enjoy discussion and want to prolong it. Maybe they like being heard?
  2. People change their minds!
    The more persuasive you or the group leaders are, the more likely people are to change their minds later on.  Most people need to come to their own conclusion, in their own time.
  3. People get carried away with the mood
    People get excited about what’s happening, what is being said. They probably are not considering all the consequences, even if they are spelt out for them.
  4. People just want to leave the room
    Often group discussions go on too long, wander off topic or run over run time. Some people agree just because they dislike conflict and want to leave the room or go home
  5. People get bored and do not understand
    Some people are just not interested in the topic and become bored. They will agree with whomever sounds like they are making the most sense or attract them in one way or another.
  6. People only hear what they want to hearSome people are optimists, they tend to trust the group leaders very quickly and only listen out for positive words and phrases that connect with their hopes and belief systems, only later (possibly when talking it over with others outside the room – friends, family etc.) they formulate their own opinion.
  7. Fear
    People get scared as to what the decision may bring and want to go back to the position where everything was known, even if it was not a happy place.
  8. People simply do not understand


  • They are not yet open for change. They are too busy trying to understand what is being said than to think about what it really implies
  • Cultural differences: for example a ‘yes’ in one country or department can have a very different meaning than in another
  • Language reasons – a simple lack of understanding
  • A lack of intelligence. They are not able to keep up and follow all the details

Whatever the reason, it can be very frustrating when someone back tracks. But this is because of one reason only: the agenda of the person that back tracks is not aligned with your own! You want to move forward – they don’t!  However, in the rare situation when you find yourself agreeing with a back tracker or ‘resistor’, be careful not to say “here, here” too loudly! 🙂

Have a nice week,