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

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

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


"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 negative.

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 others.

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 constructive process.

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 I face?
  • 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 failure.

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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