Non-Newtonian Fluids & Their Relation to Human Interaction

Posted: September 27, 2012

Every Tuesday morning we have a staff meeting. This summer I gave my team the responsibility of taking turns running the meeting with a presentation on something educational that could add value to our workplace. I have been very happy with the results. Not only is it great practice for public speaking and meeting with clients, but it also showcases the many diverse skill sets and personalities that my team possesses. 

This week brought one of our finest presentations of the summer. It was led by one of our Project Managers, Dave. Part of the job description of a project manager is negotiating. Sometimes we win and sometimes we lose. Dave started the presentation by defining a non-Newtonian fluid as a substance that can act as both a liquid and a solid. The resistance of said substance has the ability to change under increased stress. This seemed a bit different from our normal meetings!

Then Dave told us about how this seemingly liquid substance hardens when increased pressure is applied just as people resist the pressure of the unknown under stress. Emotional people, he said, do not think or hear clearly. As a matter of fact, it has been proven that people who are confused, angry, or uncertain physiologically hear less!That is why the “My Way of the Highway” method of negotiating does not work. Statistics shows that negotiators who threaten are half as likely to reach an agreement as opposed to people who are more willing to compromise even if their facts are identical! Just like a non-Newtonian fluid, people do not respond well to being forced.

Then, Dave asked us to consider better approaches to negotiating including:

Taking your ego out the equation

Do not say what you want to say – say what you need to say

Stay focused on your goal

Take emotion out of the process

Get the other side to talk

Find common ground

Establish a relationship

See the pictures inside their heads

Be transparent – ask for help

I thought this was an incredible presentation. Anyone, in any job, can relate to these themes. I hope the readers of this blog can take something away from it as well. Always remember: Nobody wins an argument.