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Negotiation (n.) The art of saying you don't want it, and even if you did, you aren't the one who decides.

Every successful negotiation starts with nonchalance, a shrug of the shoulders, and explicit choice. One wants competition among the opposing parties. If necessary, the negotiator will invent opposition and establish his or her clear choice. When showing the young couple the shiny car, the salesman explains that another couple saw it this very morning and will be back later to sign the contract, but if they hurry they can still get it. Similarly, a young man proposing to a woman to go on a date may mention, offhandedly, that he had planned to go with a competing female but… shrug…

To back up this position of not caring excessively about the outcome, successful negotiators make sure they are never seen as the deciding party. This is sometimes called the "pet rock" principle, on the basis that the negotiator will respond, to any request for a firm proposal, "hang on, I have to ask" (insert pet rock here). When the couple ask the price, the car salesman explains he "must clear it with the boss". A smart businessman will "consult with his partners", even (or especially) if he does not have any. A smart young girl will invite suitors to home to face her parents, thus losing some freedom of choice in exchange for significantly increased value in the market.

Sophisticated negotiation teams can have many structures, and in politics this takes the form of an arms race in which each side tries to up the ante, leading to "Mandarin politics", named after the historical Tang Dynasty Chinese state in which every decision involved over one thousand layers of bureaucracy, leading to the 1655 starvation of ten million peasants who were unable to get permission to farm their fields for six months, and the second Mongol invasion which got as far as Shanghai largely because the Mandarins were unable to decide whether or not to take their armies out of their sleevies.

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