The Negotiation Skills Company -- Newsletter April 2004
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The occasional newsletter of
The Negotiation Skills Company, Inc. (TNSC)
Number 30, August 2004
FIGHTING FIRES WITHOUT BURNING BRIDGES(sm)
The occasional newsletter of The Negotiation Skills
Company, Inc. (TNSC)
TERRORISM AND NEGOTIATION
"Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never
fear to negotiate." John F. Kennedy
Terror is an enemy of civilization. It is a means of
attempting to force others to do your will. In the
workplace, bosses who are martinets may be able to
terrorize subordinates into following orders, but they
have not succeeded in convincing people to agree. When
people agree out of fear, the long-term results are
News stories keep bringing us examples of how some
people or groups use terror as a tactic in their
strategy to get other folks to change their minds. The
aim of terror is to break down the underpinnings of
civilization by bringing fear to target groups and
undercutting civilized means for resolving differences.
Terror is not negotiation. There is no 'give and take'
bargaining between parties. It is a matter of 'you
give and I take.'
All too often the way someone or some group responds to
terror has an impact on how they are perceived by
Sophisticated terrorists sometimes make reasonably
accurate predictions about the actions of others, then
orchestrate their terror tactics to make it appear as
if their actions have forced those others to take a
step or make a decision they were going to take anyhow.
The train bombings in Madrid in the spring of 2004 are
an excellent example of that; a preponderance of
Spanish voters wanted to elect a new government to end
their military participation in the Iraq war.
Terrorists created a tragedy just before the Spanish
election - and that action gave outsiders the
impression that planting bombs could force the
electorate in a democracy to change their minds - and
change their government.
Less sophisticated terrorists bombed the Murrah Federal
Building in Oklahoma City - and achieved the objective
of causing death and destruction - but nothing in the
way of convincing people to take them seriously.
When the barbarians who use terror are able to convince
private citizens or governments to take a particular
action, the terrorist threat destroys public confidence
and leaves normal people exposed to chaos.
Dealing with terrorists can only work if the process
brings terrorists into a civilized negotiation that
leads to willingly accepted mutual agreements.
Successful civilized negotiation is based on the
understanding that one can better serve his/her
interests by collaborating with other parties who have
the capacity to provide resources or services that make
the whole greater than the sum of the parts.
Negotiation is about making the future better, gaining
buy-in from the interested parties, and adding value to
the situation each party faces. Negotiation is a
Many parties to negotiations fear other parties because
of their reputations, their perceived power, or their
use of sneaky tactics. Countering these obstacles to a
successful collaborative process requires looking for
answers to several questions and/or using a variety of
techniques including the following:
- Would I choose to work with this other party of my
own free will? Do they have the capacity or the
resources to address my interests?
- What interests of mine do I wish to serve in the
bargaining process? Who can add value to the situation
- What is my BATNA (Best Alternative To a Negotiated
Agreement), that is, can I get my interests served
better by dealing with other parties or focusing on
other possible outcomes?
- How should I react if the party with whom I have to
negotiate threatens me or my company? What kinds of
threats might they raise? If you think about these
issues before negotiation starts, you will be far
better prepared for whatever they might throw at you.
- When a party's offer or proposal to you is seriously
off the mark or inappropriate, don't explode. Sit
there with a poker face, stay silent, don't react.
They'll get the message.
- Remember to keep asking yourself, "What is the point
of this interchange?" Why is the party with whom
you're negotiating saying or doing something
particular? What is the point of what you say or do?
- Never never say something that is contrary to your
interest. Don't let someone force you to say something
you'll regret later.
- If someone tries to bully you, tell them "I'm afraid
we may fail to reach agreement." Bullies are afraid of
In the first half of 2004 TNSC has worked with clients
on three continents in business sectors ranging from
investment management to satellite construction. We've
appeared in scholarly journals and The New York Times.
Our book, Negotiating Skills for Managers was launched
in Russian, Complex Chinese, and Simplified Chinese -
and will appear in Korean in September.
"Trust but verify." Ronald Reagan
Good luck and good negotiating,
Steven P. Cohen
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