Tips on How to Negotiate and Acquire Negotiation Skills

By:  Simeon H. Baum

When asked to address the modest subject of “How to Negotiate and Acquire Negotiation Skills”, I am reminded of the narrator’s comment in Moby Dick:

“One often hears of writers that rise and swell with their subject, though it may seem just an ordinary one.  How, then, with me, writing of this Leviathan? Unconsciously my chirography expands into placard capitals.  Give me a condor’s quill!  Give me Vesuvius’ crater for an inkstand.  Friends, hold my arms!  For in the mere act of penning my thoughts of this Leviathan, they weary me, and make me faint with their outstretching comprehensiveness of sweep, as if to include the whole circle of the sciences, and all the generations of whales, and men, and mastodons, past, present, and to come, with all the revolving panoramas of empire on earth, and throughout the whole universe, not excluding its suburbs.  Such, and so magnifying, is the virtue of a large and liberal theme!  We expand to its bulk.  To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme.  No great and enduring volume can ever be written on the flea, though many there be who have tried it.”

Hundreds of books have been written on this theme.2  Moreover, all of us go through life negotiating in myriad circumstances.  Thus all of us are experts in this area.  What can one add that is meaningful for a 50 minute program?

What follows is an effort to capture key ideas and approaches that appear to have nearly universal applicability and to put them into a helpful, simplified framework.  For starters, the simplest format follows and expands upon the advice of the Ancient Greeks: know yourself, know others, know the world.  It then turns Taoist and adds a fourth component, recognizing that Negotiation is very much a process: the Way.

Nosce te ipsum (Know yourself).

This phrase, inscribed above the entrance to the ancient temple of Apollo at Delphi, captures a core injunction for negotiators.

Know Your Interests.

In their well known negotiation model, Fisher and Ury – and the vast majority of proponents of joint, mutual gains, cooperative bargaining models – suggest that ideal negotiation involves the identification of the interests of each party, a search for options that will best satisfy those interests, and consideration of alternatives to any proposed deal in light of those interests.   At the outset, in order to be effective, a good negotiator must be familiar with the interests that he represents – of himself, his group or his principals.  Before starting any negotiation, it is useful to be clear on what one needs, and to give thought to how best one might satisfy those needs.  “What do we need?  What are we trying to accomplish?” should be expressly asked in advance.  Are we trying to maintain a client base?  Trying to avoid damage to good will or a reputation?  In a labor context, are we trying to stay within budget in light of other material costs; increase productivity; cut down on health costs; improve our risk picture for experience rating by insurers; improve morale?  Knowing the needs can direct the strategy and also can keep one alert to opportunities that might arise in the course of negotiations.

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