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

The Negotiation Skills Company -- Newsletter January 2003

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

Number 24, January 2003


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


Several years ago, an article in The Economist included a sentence calling the European Community (this was before it became the European Union) a 'community of nations'. The next issue of the magazine contained a letter to the editor taking issue with that analysis, calling the European Community a 'community of tribes'.

When we look at most large entities - corporations, communities, or countries - we very often find they are made up of 'tribes'. In business, salespeople think differently from purchasing managers, marketing specialists have a different view of the world from that of folks responsible for manufacturing, and the same holds true for other professional groups.

One of the consequences of this tribalism within organizations is that inconsistencies can result which present obstacles to business success. Perhaps the greatest horror story I can remember came from a participant in one of our workshops. He worked for a client of ours with 110,000 employees. One day he was given five minutes' notice that he was to participate in a conference call between his company and a major client. When he joined the call, he had the unpleasant experience of listening to his colleagues argue among themselves for thirty minutes on the phone - while their client group listened in stunned silence.

Recognizing differences among tribes can be a critical element in negotiation. There is always a risk that a negotiator will assume that a person who dresses a certain way or was born in a particular country has particular characteristics or responds to some issues as if one has pressed a 'hot button'. A negotiator must be careful not to let their assumptions about another person's cultural background blind them to that other person's characteristics as an individual.

Preparing to negotiate with members of other tribes within your company, folks from different companies or business sectors, or people from other national cultures requires lots of research and preparation. While it is important to learn what you can about 'their culture' in general, it is far more valuable to engage other parties by asking questions that will help you clear up potentially mistaken assumptions about their tribe - or their individual viewpoints.

If my conference-calling client's colleagues had discussed their agreements and disagreements ahead of time, they could well have changed the impression given to the client representatives on the receiving end of the conference call. The lesson is to do your homework early. Don't wait for problems to arise when they can do the most damage.

When dealing with folks from outside your own team, ask questions that reflect your respectful interest in getting issues clarified - and deriving information that can lead to more effective and appealing resolutions on the issues of importance.


Negotiating Skills for Managers has gone into its second printing in the United States. We have also been told the Indian edition has gone into its second printing, but no official word has yet arrived from the publisher. Negotiating Skills for Managers will appear in Russian in the Spring of 2003, as will two versions in Chinese; a simplified Chinese version published in Beijing and a different version published in Taiwan.

A Spanish-language book which utilizes concepts from Negotiating Skills for Managers,  and is co-authored by Professor Ricardo Altimira-Vega is nearing publication; our sloppy translation says its title in Spanish will be: Keys To Negotiating, With Your Mind . . . and With Your Heart. It should be in Spanish bookstores in March, 2003.

Every negotiator should remember to ask, "What's the point of my negotiating with my negotiation partner?"
-- Steven P. Cohen

Happy 2003
Steven P. Cohen

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