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Negotiating Skills For Managers (Book Review)

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Negotiation vs Mediation

When we mediate, we are engaged in the process of trying to help and persuade two or more parties to come to a mutually acceptable agreement. One can see the mediator as in essence, the “negotiator for both sides.” In fact, some mediations end up to be virtual “shuttle mediations” where after the initial statements, the parties never come together again until an agreement is brokered by the mediator; between the parties in different caucus rooms. The mediator then surely must be able to take concepts and methods from the study of negotiation and integrate them into their pre-existing skill set to enhance their ability to get a settlement.

Cohen has created a uniquely constructed book, very much designed in layout to be an easy reference book for managers. The layout allows managers to quickly locate key concepts within the book by boxing those particular points and using a coded indicator as to what type of advice is contained therein. The manager is directed to organize their thoughts and steps, prior to an impending large negotiation, such as a Labor Contract or Pricing On Major Components, etc. Mr. Cohen focuses on the techniques associated with “interest based bargaining.” It is through the use of interest based bargaining that both sides get some and in certain cases, ALL of what they need out of the bargain, and so does the other side. This concept is how Mr. Cohen starts his book. He explains what “interest based bargaining” is as opposed to win-lose strategies of bargaining.

Interest Based Bargaining Yields Quality Agreements

The author then goes on to discuss the concept of BATNA (The best alternative to a negotiated agreement) and is insightful in his treatment. He makes 3 distinctions. The first is that your “bottom line” is not your BATNA. Your BATNA includes all the resources and relative position of your side with respect to the other side. And then, he made a further distinction, between your initial BATNA or “Walking In BATNA” and your “Dynamic BATNA” which is adjusting as negotiations go forward. This approach to BATNA is interesting and allows a party to constantly reassess their position during the process of the negotiation. Cohen also directs the reader to consider strengthening his or her own BATNA’s while at the same time, weakening the BATNA of the opponent with great finesse.

Mr. Cohen gives some special tips on how to get ready for negotiations and then discusses “Stakeholders, Constituents and Interests.” These factions are the ones that establish the power balances within the negotiation. Similarly, they also seem to be some of the most active in a mediation environment. The author then introduces a unique concept he calls, “The Interest Map.” This item is the result of a process of listing all “stakeholders”, “constituents” and “interests” on a board and then looking at how they overlap and integrate.

In some very well written chapters, Mr. Cohen covers “Communication as the Key to Effective Negotiation” and “Emotions: Dealing with ourselves and others.” His final part of the book introduces various skills that make the bargaining functions the most productive, by focusing on the true needs and forces affected by the outcome of the agreement. He finished his book by showing how the seven “Pillars Of Negotiational Wisdom”, these being “Communication,” “Commitment,” “Fairness.” “Creativity,” “BATNA,” “Interests,” and “Relationships”; all dovetail to allow the most beneficial Agreement to all parties to be derived from the negotiating sessions. Virtually all of the wisdom imparted in Mr. Cohen’s book is transferable to the mediation environment and just helps to enhance the skill set of the mediator. The book is highly readable and seriously recommended to those working on honing their skills to the next level.


Jon Linden

Jon Linden is a Mediator, Trainer and Business Consultant. He holds an BS in biology and an MBA, both from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA. Jon spent 20 years in the Food Service Distribution business, where he was the COO and Sr. V-P of a Distribution Center of a major… MORE >

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