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Mastering the Art of Negotiation – Book Review

The author is Geurt Jan de Heus.

This is a book review by Joshua Weiss, of the book Mastering the Art of Negotiation by Geurt Jan de Heus.


There are many books on the art of negotiation, but none may be as accessible to the average person than Mastering the Art of Negotiation (MAN) by Geurt Jan de Heus. In MAN, de Heus has woven together some time-tested negotiation principles and concepts into a user friendly, practical, and thoughtful guide for how to negotiate effectively.  The book is full of sound advice, creative images (that de Heus made himself), and easy to use frameworks.

De Heus begins the book by making the case that negotiation is more important now than ever due to all the conflicts in the world and the changing business environment.

He uses the terms Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous (VUCA) to emphasize that point and the need to create value to solve the challenging problems we face.  According to de Heus, that must be coupled with an open mindset that leads to positive sum solutions.

De Heus uses a number of concepts to help the reader understand the complex nature of negotiation. Initially he deploys the notion of connecting the dots to show the reader how things are linked. He then explains, through the heart of the book, the 7 dilemmas negotiators have to confront in order to move from beginner to master. All the while, he provides a clear pathway to move from one end of the spectrum to the other in order to become an effective negotiator. Let’s look at each dilemma in more detail.

The first dilemma is the nature of the relationship.  In other words, do you see the other negotiator as a foe or friend?  If you see them as a foe, you are very limited in your ability to create value and solve difficult problems. If you see them as a friend, you are more likely to engage in problem solving and other necessary tools for successful negotiated outcomes.

The second dilemma centers around information and if you trust or distrust the source of that information.  If you distrust the information coming at you in a negotiation that will be very limiting.  However, if you can trust your counterpart to a degree you can also find ways of managing problems creatively.

The third dilemma has to do with a negotiator’s style — whether a negotiator takes an open, constructive approach, or deploys a hard, win as much as you can methodology.  These approaches are an indicator of one’s mindset and how they see what they are doing at the table.

The fourth dilemma is related to value creation.  According to de Heus, a negotiator’s orientation is either that they take a ‘we together’ approach to creating value or deploy a ‘you and I’ attitude, where we each try to create value just for ourselves.

The fifth dilemma is centered on the issue of distribution and whether a negotiator’s orientation is toward fairness for both or solely on oneself.  If one is only focused on themselves they are not likely to build a relationship during the process – thereby becoming less successful in the long term.  If a negotiator takes a fairness approach they look to distribute the spoils fairly based on what each party values and truly needs.

The sixth dilemma is whether you see your position in negotiation as being interdependent or independent.  If the later, you are very likely to view issues as the other negotiator’s problem and seek to maximize your gains without regard for the other negotiator.

Finally, the seventh dilemma has to do with process.  As a negotiator, are you working together with me or are we each taking a ‘my way or the highway’ line? The former is what is needed to reach the best solutions.

De Heus takes you step by step on your personal learning journey towards Mastery by digging deeper into some critical dynamics related to negotiation. These include understanding yourself and others, handling biases, managing power, and negotiating across cultural differences. De Heus concludes the book with very practical steps on how to move from a beginner negotiation perspective, into a good negotiator level, and then what it really requires to be a master negotiator.  All the while de Heus sprinkles in very practical advice and anecdotes from his experience.

In MAN you will experience how you can cope with VUCA contexts with a clear head, a warm heart, on strong legs, and nimble feet.

The seven guides will help you develop your learning journey so that you are able to prepare, perform, and advance your knowledge and ability substantially.

This book is a wild ride through the core of effective negotiation and will benefit anyone from the novice to the person who is constantly trying to improve in this challenging, but fascinating arena.


Joshua N. Weiss

Dr. Joshua N. Weiss is a negotiation expert and the co-founder of the Global Negotiation Initiative at Harvard University. He received his Ph.D. from the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University in 2002. Dr. Weiss has spoken and published on Negotiation, Mediation, and systemic approaches to… MORE >

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