Soon the new MLB season will start, so let’s warm up with some baseball action from a place where the bat is already swung: In Cuba, the playoffs have already started three weeks ago. And since the first round, a video spreads virally on the web that probably some of you already have seen by now:
Industriales from Havana was playing away at Sancti Spiritus when their batter Lisban Correa got hit by a pitch. Nothing special and the rule for this case is that the batter can advance to the first base. Seems like this wasn’t enough of redemption for Correa, as he started chasing the pitcher with his bat (when a pitch hits the batter it may have happened by accident, but it may also have been done on purpose – obviously Correa thought it was the latter). The “unusual” reaction ended in a five minute brawl and police had to intervene to calm everybody down.
A highly entertaining video of the scene can be found here.
Baseball is a match that builds on the duel between pitcher and batter. There’s high intensity: The pitcher tries to mislead the batter, while the batter tries to read the pitcher and guess the pitch. It’s a situation in which very small things decide – not just a physical, but also a mental fight.
That’s a setup you might know from situations in your environment, most notably from negotiations. When you negotiate, it is also quite often a duel with high intensity. And just like in baseball, “wild pitches” can happen: Negotiation tactics that you did not expect, that become personal, that are unfair. We all know these.
Here’s what we can learn from baseball batters: The big challenge is to stay calm, stay focused and use the opponent’s unfair approach to empower your position. I agree this can be quite tough when you are under pressure, but:
Great batters wait for the next pitch in an even more focused way when the wild pitch barely missed them.
Great batters take the first base when they got hit and think about how to steal the second, not about why the pitcher hit them.
Great batters react quickly to the new situation and wave their team mates home.
Whenever you face unfair attacks in a negotiation, make sure that you do not appear like a victim to it and that you control how to deal with it and what to do next.
Lisban Correa did not react this way and he did not stay calm and confident. He launched a pointless counter attack instead. The result: Correa was suspended for 6 month after the incident (Sancti Spiritus pitcher Yaniel Sosa was excluded from the next three playoff games, while a couple of other players were banned for one or two matches).
But that’s not the end of the story. In contrast to their catcher, Correa’s team showed the right reaction. After a one day rain delay which helped to calm everybody down, they came back to the next games extremely focused and concentrated, winning the series 4 games to 1.
If someone plays unfair it is the right way to demonstrate he is not making you feel insecure. Just like a great batter asks for the next pitch, you can asks for details or explanations to demonstrate that the “unfair” approach in not very sophisticated or just say that this is not part of the negotiation and not acceptable.
Just like a great batter silently walks to the first base, you can also just be silent. “Active” silence is very tough to tackle for people that negotiate in an unfair way (“active” means that you show you don’t accept the unfair attack).
Just like a great batter looks for the big picture and waves his team mates home, you can summarize what was said before and make sure the unfair attack is explicitly excluded.
There are many good ways to be responsive to provocations. Chasing the opponent with a bat is not one of them. Being professional and smart when attacked in an unfair way is very hard, but it pays off. Next time you feel the anger rising within you just remember that is not about one wild pitch. It is about winning the series.