Negotiation and America’s Future

“Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.”

John F. Kennedy

“Negotiation is a dialogue between two or more people or parties intended to reach an understanding, resolve points of difference, to gain advantage for an individual or collective, or to craft outcomes to satisfy various interests.” – Wikipedia

In general, Americans are poor negotiators. Most of us grew up in a society where retail prices are on a label, we accept it and we pay that price. Purchasing a car was probably the first time, we were asked what we would be willing to pay for an item. This process, while it appears to be a negotiation, is well orchestrated and usually leads the buyer to a predetermined price point. A price that is set and controlled by the sales manager.

Think about how you feel at the thought of going through the car buying process. Most of us feel like we paid too much and would rather go to the dentist than do it again. Due to this retail mindset, the thought of asking for a lower price makes us uncomfortable. That others might think we are cheap or can’t afford the item makes us cringe.

Globally, Americans are the exception in this regard. In most other countries it is common to obtain food and clothing from local “markets” and small entrepreneurs through bartering / negotiation. The transaction begins with an asking price.

For those who believe negotiation is simple – just Google it.  The “How to’s” and information on the subject are almost endless. A good article that illustrates this point can be found at the following link:

Great negotiators are confident but humble, serious but with a good sense of humor, wise more than smart, committed but flexible, and willing to compromise except on principle. The senate leadership of the past six years was devoid of the skill and the desire to negotiate. Totally unproductive, real progress became impossible. The legislation passed in its first two years was painfully unilateral and therefore lacking in effective vetting. Paraphrasing:  “Pass it to know what is in it” from the mouth of a congressional leader confirmed this sad state of affairs.

Successful negotiation is hard work. It requires clear goals but an open mind, knowledge built upon fact based research, courageous humility, patience and a willingness to concede non-essential points. Opponents should be allowed to “save face”. “Win Win” outcomes are the best ones.

A majority should not be viewed as a license to dictate but as a platform to build consensus and set direction. May the negotiations begin!


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