There are parts of How to Master Negotiation that will not surprise lawyers – litigators in particular.
The process of establishing your own and the other side’s best/worst alternative to negotiated settlement (BATNA and WATNA) is something all will have gone through multiple times as they advise and guide clients through disputes and deals. And this being a book edited by mediation body CEDR, facilitated mediation features heavily.
What will take many by surprise are the ‘exercises’ the authors recommend a negotiator needs to go through to remain match-fit.
From Chapter 1 onwards, there is a heavy emphasis on the negotiator taking extensive steps to boost their own self-awareness. The negotiator must know their sources of personal fear and greed, be clear about their own values and beliefs, and know what they trust, want and need.
The authors recommend a negotiator build their confidence by making lists daily – identifying 50 of their own large, medium and minuscule achievements; listing 50 skills they possess; and noting things they are grateful for. ‘The aim of writing these,’ one passage says, ‘is to build your mental acuity, build a shortcut to remembered resources and to gift yourself confidence.’
Edited by: CEDR
Honesty about your power sources is also urged. A fairly brutal list – that includes being ‘straight’, ‘attractive’, ‘white’ and ‘male’ – will raise eyebrows, but is less about promoting these things as virtues, the authors note, but rather understanding the terrain or context of a negotiation. Building the ‘legitimacy’ of your own position is examined at greater length.
All this hyper-self-awareness should flag to a negotiator not just their sources of confidence, but also areas where they risk being overconfident.
Passages on preparing your negotiation team, therefore, include advice on instilling self-awareness. Establishing standards and ground rules for the team is also key. The exhortation that members should avoid ‘boring’ their colleagues or the other side is prominent.
The emphasis on preparation means the reader is a third of the way through the book before the authors consider ‘opening with maximum effect’. Why put so much infrastructure around the act of preparation?
The exhortations, the lists, the need constantly to ‘look in the mirror’ – these are all in place to help strip away problems with emotion or trust that exist in negotiations. They are the foundation for later subjects, such as Eileen Carroll QC’s chapter ‘Avoiding avoidance: how to negotiate when no-one is willing’.
Can negotiation be learned from a book? It has to be a good start. There is plenty of sanity on offer in How to Master Negotiation. ‘Great negotiators,’ one scene-setting passage runs, ‘learn to interrupt their instincts’ and ‘will be wary of the bipolar question… “Are you with me or against me?”.’
Eduardo Reyes is the Gazette’s commissioning and features editor