Sunday, February 06, 2011

Shut up and listen

The overwhelming TV live from Cairo with its confrontation and sometimes-frightening violence hides a more negotiation process going on.  That process has a lesson for us that some of the parties are ignoring and that may doom the anti-Mubarak side, or lead to an Islamist state in Egypt.

The lesson is simple.  Instead of trumpeting your own demands incessantly, stop talking and listed to what the other side is saying, and even proposing.  Mubarak said he wants to stay on until the September election, but in passing he made clear why.  He wants to die on Egyptian soil. 

While for many the past 15 or 20 years have been of awful deprivation, at least in his own mind he was after the assassination of Anwar Sadat a great savior, one who prevented chaos, somewhat as LBJ prevented chaos when JFK was killed in 1963.  But LBJ’s one elected term brought him great hatred from some, and he decided not to stand for re-election in 1968.  He retired then to Texas.  Surely that is where he wanted to live out his days.

The anti-Mubarak forces demand he leave the country.  No chance he is going to do that.  He would rather die in a presidential palace, stoned to death.  But Egypt is large.  There must be some nice seaside town to which he could be allowed to retire with dignity, go swim in the Med and write a memoir.  They should listen to this and begin a dialog starting with that as an outcome both side should bargain to while they bargain the transition details.

Still, they are mostly screaming too loudly to hear that.  Except the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, which is organized enough to suggest a sit-down.  They are a minority, but sitting down to talk could give them an upper hand in the government that follows.  Listen.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Three Little Pigs Teach Negotiation

Let's reinterpret the familiar tale of the Three Little Pigs and their nemesis wolf in real adult terms, and apply it to negotiation.

We often tell the tale to children to help them deal with their various fears, some expressed as fear of being eaten. Adults, too, have fears, often similar. They fear being "eaten alive" by a clever and aggressive business adversary. Still, to counter the fear we need only one pig, one who is intelligent, a planner, and not panicked. And our hero pig can then build a metaphoric house of bricks to thwart the business wolf.

This is essentially what I speak of when I advocate using Zen technique, or getting to Your Zen Spacesm to counter the fear of being eaten alive or otherwise beaten at bargaining. Remember to concentrate on three consecutive breaths, the inhale and exhale; imagine yourself personally outside the situation and observing it; and practice this procedure often, at non-threatening times.

You will now be able to thwart the wolf at the door, and no amount of his or her huffing and puffing will threaten you. You will feel safe and able to think rationally and ahead.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

How do you write a provisional patent application?

That is not especially relevant to one seeking to learn negotiation, but I have a second interest, which is patents and other intellectual property. Being this is my web log, I am going to indulge it.

A provisional patent application is used to suspend time. It costs thousands to file a real ("utility) patent application, so to pin down when you made the invention you file a provisional. This gives you a "priority date" good all over the world, so long as you follow up with a utility within a year. And you can write the provisional yourself, if you follow the requirements. Sometimes the best way to describe what is required of someone is by example. Therefore, for anyone planning to write a provisional, herewith an example of what you need to write.


Background: In all prior art baseball bats have been made by sawing off tree trunks so the cross section is square. A handle has been sawn near the proximal end of the bat, where the batsman can hold onto it. This has also been square in cross section, although smaller than the distal end that strikes the ball. This type of bat often strikes the ball on one of the sharp corners, resulting in an unpredictable direction of flight.

Summary of the invention. I have invented a baseball bat round in cross section and with the handle arising in a gentle contour diminishing from the "head" or distal end of the bat. This results in a far more predictable and thus controllable direction of flight.

Brief description of the drawings. Fig. 1 and Fig 2 show a baseball bat according to the prior art, respectively in plan and cross section views while Figs. 3 and 4 shows a baseball bat according to the present invention, again respectively in plan and cross section views .

Detailed Description of the Preferred Embodiments. As shown in Fig. 3, the bat 1 gradually tapers from the head or distal end 2 to the proximal or handle end 3, and then more sharply to the knob 4. These tapers are achieved in the preferred embodiment by placing a piece of ash or hickory wood of sufficient initial diameter in a wood lathe and turning it down with appropriate cutting tools. As shown in Fig. 4, the cross section is maintained by the lathe as a perfect circle everywhere along the length of the bat 4. The diameter is maximal at the head end 2, minimal along the handle 3 and larger than the handle at the knob 4 at the proximal end of the bat.

As will be clear to any person familiar with the art of forming baseball bats, there are many other possible embodiments, based on using different types of wood or other materials and by using different tapers from those shown in Fig. 3, as may be convenient for manufacture and for those wielding the bats.

[drawings omitted; you can imagine them]

Friday, May 08, 2009

But I don't want to Say what my interests are!

Like most modern negotiation trainers, I teach not to focus on positions but on interests. Awhile ago I gave a seminar, and one of the participants told me he doesn't want ever to disclose his interests, because then his negotiation partners will know what to withhold to put pressure on him.

Let's leave aside the notion that there has been no trust at all established, and that he may be contributing subtly to that distrust, maybe by non-verbal communication. What can he do? He has an important or even key interest, but is afraid of saying so.

Here's an idea to get around his problem. Instead of laying out for the other side what his interests are, my participant could just come to the first meeting with a list of issues or talking points—an agenda of things he thinks the eventual agreement ought to cover. He need not unduly emphasize the one that is key for him until and unless the other party is also forthcoming.

Negotiation 101: It is important to avoid positions, instead focusing on your interests, if you prefer by presenting a set of talking points or issues, not all key to your happiness.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Is It Hypocrisy?

If you look at my web page about Professional Negotiation, http://gotiation,, you see I advocate a style and philosophy of negotiating that seeks to expose and then if possible satisfy the needs of both sides. But the page loads with an animation that exhorts "Don't Leave Money on the Table." How can I believe in both?

Negotiation properly done is each side gradually, as it gains trust in the other, exposing what it feels it needs to get from the negotiation. As I emphasize often, this does not mean stating a "position" but listing needs. Often a position focuses on price, only one part of real world deals. And it contemplates a back and forth auction. I advocate instead persuading the other side and yours that the appropriate price is one based on fair and objective standards. A "position" has no place in this process.

If the final price is fair and objective, then neither side has left money on the table and both have as closely as possible had their needs met.