Sottile On Negotiating

Student's Wrap-Up

Grad Student's Forward
Q&A Interview With John
Student's Wrap-Up
Article: The Bottom Line

"Enjoys The Challenge"

After the interview, I saw John as a businessman who thoroughly enjoys the challenge industry offers, but who is foremost an adventurer at heart. His answers demonstrated a keen understanding of the bargaining process that only a seasoned pro would possess -- one whose surprisingly high level of enthusiasm makes me believe negotiating will continue to be enjoyable for him.

He defines his approach as a systems process with the key factor being planning and preparation.  John calls this pre-negotiation; assessing positions, strength, deadlines and most importantly, information about the other side.  He states that being a system it is imperative to discover the common grounds and minimize the negatives.  The text, as well as class discussions, stressed the importance of this preparation and planning.  John appears to concur with this, but once the planning is complete it becomes a challenge and a game-- a game to win.  Although he discussed the integrative approach and defined an effective negotiation as one where "both sides obtain what they sought," John also stated that he carries the prime rule of the military, "control the battlefield," into a negotiation.  It is comments like this one which make me feel that John is an adventurer and second a negotiator and his approach in mostcases is distributive, in military terms; "search and destroy."

In pursuing the desired outcome, John defends the use of virtually any tactic.  Throughout the interview he addresses them all, and is apparently quite aware of their affects and implications on the process and the individuals involved.  His answer "yes" to; "do the ends justify the means" legitimizes the use of power, threats and force when considered necessary and appropriate.  This he calls "parading the troops."  He firmly believes that threatens or intimidation are ok to use, but using them if they produce the desired results.

John is articulate, competitive, precise and extremely thorough in his approach. His pre-negotiation stage allows him to identify and clarify the issue and positions available to both sides. The approach he takes into the process depends on these perceived strengths and weaknesses-- for example; "I can be most cooperative when not in a position to bargain". It is the situation which determines the posture he will take, not the other side's position.

It is unfair, however to dissect and attempt to analyze each and every one of John's responses to my questions.  It is obvious that he has mastered the tools of the trade.  He is keenly aware of the factors, variables and underlying psychological issues implicit in the human side of the process.  But his approach remains consistent and quite clear, at least in my observation.  John prefers the distributive approach.  He localizes the situation, identifies his strengths and uses them to reach his objectives.  Although he works towards a win/win solution when possible, I expect it is usually on his terms.

The text notes that in its more competitive forms, concealment between parties can cause misunderstandings and the feeling that the other side is dishonest or deceptive.  Sometimes this results in the inability to come to a workable agreement.  This can be reduced when negotiators start off careful but reveal more and more of their true needs as they come to trust the other side.

John takes this approach but admitted that he still would never reveal his whole position.   I believe that the ability to uncover solutions to complex issues requires first; honest and open communication, and second, a cooperative environment where the negotiators feel unthreatened.  Creativity and innovation will not be effective if one side feels too threatened and intimidated by the other.  When this happens, the break off of negotiations becomes a strong possibility because of one side's frustration and anger over the other's behavior.  The attitudes and perceptions we have of the other side are not always reality-based.  While they may behave consistent with our image of them, the perception may create far more conflict than actually exists.  Emotion, like perception, can also negatively impact the ability of the parties to reach anagreement.  Both sides must be sensitive to this and not let misconceptions rule the process.

John takes a very controlled and clinical approach to negotiating. He can separate emotion from enthusiasm, maintaining a highly focused perspective throughout the process.

I have difficulty staying focused if I allow emotion to take over, which sometimes occurs. It is extremely difficult for me to effectively represent a position I do not believe fair.  Most importantly, in my mind the ends very often do not justify the mean. there is a moral and ethical boundary one must consider, whether or not commonly shared among people.  The text states that one of the cardinal rules of successful negotiation is "settlements that address the needs of both parties are the most durable and satisfying ones".  This is more likely achieved through cooperation, not intimidation. 

My approach to negotiation may be simplistic and possibly naive, but I almost exclusively attempt to follow the integrative approach.  In a true integrative process all information is shared openly.  The process is based on trust and honesty requiring a demonstration of good faith from both sides from the start.  The best solutions I feel are founded on valid and truthful information sharing.  In presenting the facts and listening carefully to the other side's points of view and concerns, mutually agreeable solutions to problems can be identified.

My weakness is being too direct and too impatient, sometimes allowing my emotions to cloud my understanding of the bargaining climate at specific points in time.  No matter what method or strategy taken, conflict will be resolved only when the desire of the two sides to reach an agreement is greater than their need or willingness to break off the relationship.  Conflict or the use of force more frequently leads to retaliation and escalation than conflict reduction.  Cooperation, I feel, is the better road to follow.