Sometimes even the weirdest things on the internet create an inadvertent but valuable lesson.  Take, for example, the twitter feed of one Hadie Mart, whose handle is @CostcoRiceBag, so you know weird stuff is on the way.   Over the last four months she's sent out 366 seemingly innocuous and unconnected tweets and now she's just revealed that, if you read the first word of each tweet in reverse order (i.e. latest tweet first), you get the entire lyrics of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody. 

I guess the point of this is revealed in the final tweet (or word one of the song if you prefer): "IS IT JUST ME, OR DID I JUST PULL OFF THE GREATEST TWITTER SCHEME OF ALL TIME?????".  So self-promotion is clearly at play. But as an exercise in communication it's deeply ineffective.  For there's absolutely no point in showing how clever you are, or indeed trying to communicate anything, if the way you do it is so complicated or obscure that no-one receives the message.  Axelrod made the point in The Evolution of Co-Operation that a major drawback of such a strategy is that that no-one understands what you're trying to say: "being so complex as to be incomprehensible is very dangerous".    

It's the same in negotiation.  All too often people think about their own position and they focus on what they want to say.  "Let's send them a message"  is an oft-heard exhortation in the negotiation room, but all too often the emphasis is on the act of sending rather than ensuring the message is received and understood.   And we all know where a message in a bottle ends up - anywhere the wind blows.

CEDR offers a wide range of tailored packages that include our flagship Advanced Negotiation Course or 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

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.