Opening to the Great Way
Having embraced the chiliocosm, framing out content and approaches through the vast domains of self, other, and the world, a comprehensive presentation on Negotiation Skills must finally recognize that we are dealing with what is fundamentally a process.
We recognize that there is a wide range of styles and approaches in negotiation that can differ and yet be both effective and legitimate. Having said that, I still might make a few recommendations. Since we engage in negotiation in all areas of life, there is something to be said for being bigger than the topic. Sometimes living with dignity and genuineness trumps a minor strategic gain. Moreover, with principled, joint mutual gains approaches, it is possible to hold one’s own, and indeed improve the deal outcome, while still acting with decency and in a manner consistent with ones own values.
As we engage in this process, we can negotiate the process itself. If we find ourselves in a mode of interacting that seems inappropriate or unproductive, we can discuss our approaches with the counterparty. We are all too familiar with the frustration of negotiating the size and location of the table. Yet, while we do not wish to be hung up and frozen in our interactions, it can also be liberating – and good strategy – to be alert to process choices that might enhance relationships, information gathering, or the deal.
Negotiators should cultivate creativity, openness, and flexibility. We are participating in something greater than ourselves. Richer possibilities may emerge from a deal than we could have at first realistically have imagined. This attitude of openness makes us not only more humane and appreciative of others, it also opens us to reality and enables us to see and seize upon opportunities.
Along these lines, let a lively silence be your baseline. This helps in decision making on disclosure flow, preserves candor through eliminating impulsive misrepresentations, controls the expression of unhelpful emotional reactions, prevents reactive behavior overall, and encourages listening to others. It gives one a chance to consider before committing. Yet, this approach should not be at the expense of wholesome spontaneity and warm sharing.
Finally, negotiation, at its core, recognizes of the freedom and dignity of all participants. We all can take it or leave it, talk or walk. For this reason, it is a beautiful way indeed.
1 Melville, Moby Dick, Ch. 104.
2 Some recommended reading includes: Fisher & Ury, Getting to Yes; Ury, Getting Past No; Mnookin, Beyond Winning; Shell, Bargaining for Advantage; ABA Section on Dispute Resolution, The Negotiator’s Handbook.
3 The phrase “disciplined self consciousness,” coined by John Ross Carter, Professor of Philosophy and Religion; Robert Hung-Ngai Ho Professor of Asian Studies, Colgate University, for use in connection with the comparative study of religion, has wide applicability in the context of negotiation as well.
4 See, e.g., Leonard Riskin (C.A. Leedy Professor of Law and Director of the Center for the Study of Dispute Resolution and the Initiative on Mindfulness in Law and Dispute Resolution at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law) “The Contemplative Lawyer: On the Potential Relevance of Mindfulness Meditation to Law Students, Lawyers, and their Clients,” Harvard Negotiation Law Review (May 2002). This was the centerpiece of a symposium entitled Mindfulness in Law and Dispute Resolution. Professor Riskin has provided training in mindfulness in law and dispute resolution at a wide range of venues including the Harvard Negotiation Insight Initiative, Harvard Law School, Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution, Pepperdine University School of Law, and Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.