Book Review: Andrea Kupfer Schneider and Christopher Honeyman, Editors, The Negotiator’s Fieldbook: The Desk Reference for the Experienced Negotiator (ABA Section of Dispute Resolution 2006)
The Negotiator’s Fieldbook is an excellent and diverse anthology about cutting edge issues of negotiation, which reflects insightful effort by the editors in assembling thoughtful and well-researched articles by the contributing writers. This volume achieves the ABA Section of Dispute Resolution’s goal of providing an advanced working tool for experienced negotiators and mediators. It will serve as an important resource for practitioners who seek insightful and creative approaches to their work. The diversity of backgrounds, experiences and professional orientations of the scores of contributing authors enriches the volume.
Over 700 pages of muscle and connective tissue are organized into six sections and 80 chapters, allowing a reader to zero in on specific areas of interest. I found most of the articles to be informative, insightful and/or thought provoking. I expect that most readers will come away, as I did, with a number of favorite articles that resonate and dovetail with their styles of mediation, such as the following:
Nancy A. Welsh points out in chapter 19, “Perceptions of Fairness,” that:
“First, people are more likely to judge a process as fair if they are given a meaningful opportunity tell their story.… Second, in a process that feels fair, people receive assurance that the decision-maker has listened to them and understood and cared about what they had to say. Third, people watch for signs that the decision-maker is trying to treat them in an even-handed and fair manner. Finally, people value a process that accords them dignity and respect.” (P. 169.)
In chapter 30, “Untapped Power: Emotions in Negotiation,” Daniel Shapiro states that emotions “signal the importance of issues to us” (p. 266). Thus,
“awareness of emotions, one’s own and those of others, provides a negotiator with an understanding of the importance of each person’s interests and concerns.… With expanded information about the relative importance of interests, parties are more capable of devising options for mutual gain.” (Id.)
Sheila Heen and Douglas Stone in chapter 39, “Perceptions and Stories,” express the view that human memory is story based and that conflict triggers emotion. Emotions in turn trigger chemical reactions that affect our ability to perceive and recall. (Compare pp. 343, 345.) Importantly, they note that: “human beings are not good at remembering isolated ‘data’ or creating unique files in our head. We have to find a way to connect the fragments with stories, and to connect a new story with an existing story already on file.” (P. 346, emphasis in original.) Thus, emotions can cloud our thinking and affect our reactions in negotiations and mediations. Stories and stereotypes on file will affect how communication is processed in a mediation. Perceptive articles by Roy J. Lewicki, “Trust and Distrust” (ch. 22), and Linda L. Putnam, “Communication and Interaction Patterns” (ch. 44), expand and complement the material from Heen and Stone.
Important insights and thoughtful views abound in this volume. If I have any criticism of this superb work, it is the failure to address fear, grief and love (appreciation), emotions that are at the core of conflict. On the other hand, this desk reference has many articles that warrant a second and third reading. The editors and authors have done a tremendous job of correlating the various contributions that advanced practitioners will value musing over and then applying in their work.
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