Ultimatums

Rothko painting "No. 10"

The topic hardly matters.  You have the facts to prove you are right.  As the great English novelist Jane Austen put it: “How quick come the reasons for approving what we like!”  Modern psychologists chalk it up to “confirmation bias.”  When there is a conflict, it is easy to think you are justified in giving an ultimatum.

Think again.

People who get things done take time to win support for their ideas.  They know the facts never “speak for themselves.”  They avoid my-way-or-the-highway tactics.

On a recent visit to New York’s Museum of Modern Art, I came across good example of the pointlessness of ultimatums.  In 1952, a board member resigned in protest over the proposed purchase of Mark Rothko’s abstract work “No. 10.”  The result?  The painting today hangs prominently in the museum, while the board member is forgotten.   His dramatic action did nothing to forestall the purchase, and cost him the opportunity to remain in the discussion about it.

It takes time to change others’ minds.  Dramatic, grandstanding actions rarely work.  Be practical: if you are interested in results, avoid ultimatums and keep talking.

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