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Secrets of Power Negotiating: Inside Secrets from a Master Negotiator

Review by: The Alternative Newsletter Editor

Published by: (Career Press, Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, 1999;
ISBN 1-56414-399-6; 319 pp.)(Second Edition)

“Secrets of Power Negotiating” provides a terrifying glimpse into what could more appropriately be deemed “Secrets of Offensive

Negotiating” — in both senses of the term. The book provides a step-by-step guide to “moves” and “gambits” based on manipulations, lies and

tricks to conduct classic competitive negotiations for unilateral gain.

There is no pretense made here of negotiating for any mutual advantage. Indeed, Dawson opens by mocking the very notion of seeking

any universally beneficial resolution, warning: “There’s not going to be a magical win-win solution…They want to take more money out of your

pocket and put it right into theirs”. Nor is any effort wasted on grappling with questions of honesty, decency, or morality in the process.

Negotiators are urged to prevail by employing maneuvers such as pretending to physically “flinch” in response to proposals, announcing lies

about their authority to reach a decision, strategically grandstanding about walking away from the talks, and employing devices such as one

labeled the “vise technique”.

Also conspicuously absent from the author’s approach is any consideration of the effect such techniques might have on the relationship

between the negotiating parties — the same techniques are specifically advocated for dealing with Saddam Hussein on the liberation of Kuwait

as for a parent negotiating the amount of spending money to give their own child for a school trip. One does not even close the book

convinced of the effectiveness of such strategies. (At the risk of being labeled naive, one could legitimately question the advice to always open

negotiations asking for more than your “maximum plausible position” since “you’ll appear to be more cooperative if you’re able to make larger

concessions.” It seems equally likely that this approach may simply destroy any possibility of resolution.)

Ironically, this book may have tremendous potential value as a teaching tool — it provides a detailed outline of a strategy that exemplifies

an approach ADR professionals might dismiss but is nevertheless the culturally-accepted norm for negotiation behavior. It may also serve as an

important defense manual that would enable both negotiators and mediators to spot — and defuse — the very kind of cheap negotiating tricks

it espouses.


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