Negotiation Skills Company, Inc.
Negotiation Skills Company, Inc.

The Negotiation Skills Company -- Newsletter June 2008

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The occasional newsletter of
The Negotiation Skills Company, Inc. (TNSC)

Number 40, June 2008

The occasional newsletter of The Negotiation Skills Company, Inc. (TNSC)


Negotiators need to follow the lead of teenagers in asking a crucial question - of themselves and of their counterparties in negotiations. Parents - and other authority figures - often find themselves challenged by teenagers questioning their authority who ask the pointed question: "And your point is . . .?"

On occasion that query is received at an attempted put-down, a sign of disrespect. It is a means for putting the person to whom that question is directed in an uncomfortable place. When someone asks you "What is your point?" the questioner might be asking something a profound as "What is the point of your existence?" or, more likely, "Why are you bothering me? What are you trying to prove?"

As unpleasant as the question may initially sound, in the grown-up world, it is tremendously important. If we examine the point of our participating in a negotiation it gives us a chance to do a far better job of developing benchmarks for assessing the benefits negotiation or collaborative decision-making can bring.

Unless we have a reasonably clear sense of the desired end state we're pursuing, we may never know if we've gotten there - or even whether we've made progress. Asking ourselves the point - the purpose - of pursuing a given solution with a given negotiation partner should empower us to do an ongoing assessment of how we're doing as a negotiation goes forward.

Having a good idea of the point we're pursuing can help us make wiser choices of negotiating partners. Very often, there's very little choice; we find ourselves needing to improve a relationship, enhance teamwork, or sell an idea (or a product or service) to a particular person or organization. In those circumstances we may not be able to choose our negotiation partner - but we can assess whether the ongoing process with them is likely to bring about a satisfactory solution - the fulfillment of our point in negotiating with them in the first place.

We also need to suss out, as best we can, the reason other parties want to or are at least willing to negotiate with us. What is their point negotiating with us? What objectives have they brought to the table? How will they measure the value of continuing to engage with us? Just as we ask what value a particular person or organization can bring to us, we must be attentive to how we can add value for them. The more negotiation partners see one another as adding value, the greater the likelihood of reaching a good solution - and building or strengthening a relationship.

As we pursue the negotiation process, we need to continue to ask the point of why things are said, why offers are made then accepted or rejected, and how a person's response can provide insight to her or his point. We need to take upon ourselves the role of a psychiatrist in the old joke: One psychiatrist passes another on the sidewalk and says "Hello." The other continues on his way - but ponders, "I wonder what she meant by that." A good negotiator has to be actively engaged in the process; a highly talented negotiator has the capacity to observe as well as participate - and ask, "Now what was the point of that?" or, more challengingly, "Why did I just say that?"

Questions can feel ugly when they appear to challenge our sense of purpose or value. However, when we are open to questions that challenge our 'point' we are empowered to look within ourselves and be more competent - and confident -as discussions go forward.

The Greek philosopher Socrates is known for having said the most important thing is to "Know thyself." If we can look into ourselves and examine the point we're pursuing, we will indeed know ourselves more. And if we constantly analyze why someone (ourselves included) has said or done something, when we understand the point, we have a far better chance of reaching our desired end state.


We welcome Carol Gardiner as a new member of our office staff. She has assumed the duties of Marsha Vaughan, bringing considerable experience from real estate and marketing to enhance our activities.

Final Word

"A successful negotiator is someone who practices the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it."
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower

Good luck and good negotiating,
Steven P. Cohen, President
The Negotiation Skills Company, Inc.

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