Having finished below mid-table in the second tier of English football last year, we can probably understand why Norwich City are prepared to try anything to improve their fortunes.  But just like so many so-called "clever" negotiation tactics I get to see, I fear that their latest plan, to paint the visitors' locker room a supposedly emasculating shade of pink, shows all the signs of going horribly wrong.

The idea isn't a new one, having been introduced in the late 1980s by a University of Iowa football coach who just happened to have a psychology degree.  He claimed that the colour pink can have a calming effect on people, and maybe it does.  But not if they know that's what you are up to. 

In 2004, the Iowa pink locker room got even pinker as pink lockers, toilets and showers were installed to go along with the pink walls.  And the result was howls of outrage, not from the football players, but from law professors and students who protested that the locker room reinforced stereotypes of pink being attributed to women and the gay community, given that the underlying psychology was to make the other team feel weak.

And just like "good cop, bad cop" or "that's all the authority I have" or "the staged walk-out" or "take it or leave it" or "salami slicing" these tactics all falter if they are properly recognised and responded to.  Just as Norwich City will very soon learn that their opponents may initially be calmed down by the pink, and listen more closely to their coaches' instructions.  And then those coaches will point to the walls, remind the players how their hosts are trying to influence them, and simply tell them to "go out there and show them it's not going to work".    First scorer = own goal.


CEDR's training team offers a wide range of tailored packages that include our new modular programme in 'Skills for Life' - master active listening, managing emotion, how to have that difficult conversation and be an agent of influence. To learn more, contact the CEDR Skills team at training@cedr.com.

Graham Massie is a member of CEDR Chambers, a panel of highly experienced mediators with proven excellence in providing mediation, training and consultancy services to clients.