Saturday, June 28, 2008

Treat the other side as fellow humans with different views

Like everyone, I see the recent deal with the North Koreans as a real opportunity to increase world stability and reduce the chance of nuclear war. As an attorney and negotiation trainer, I see a learning opportunity for everyone who makes deals.

The 5+ decades since the nominal end of the Korean War have featured each side feeling threatened by the other, steps taken to repulse the other, and lots of nasty name-calling. The President’s labeling North Korea part of an “Axis of Evil” was an example of demonizing the folks across the bargaining table. It cuts off discussion.

People say the Bush Administration has the past couple years begun to seek a deal with North Korea as trying to recover at least a bit of positive foreign relation
legacy. Perhaps, but that only explains why they did a deal.

The more important lessons have to do with how. We stopped referring to North
Korea as “Axis of Evil” or with other debasement. That was good. No one will bargain with someone who calls him a criminal.

We went to the table without “pre-conditions” or points the other side must concede at the beginning. Only a fool would make such concessions before coming to the table. We apparently listened in good faith to their concerns about invasion from the South, even though we consider those concerns paranoid. When you
listen to the other folks in good faith, they will listen to you, even though neither side can believe the other side believes what they claim to.

“We are all more human than otherwise,” someone said. If we keep that in mind about those we despise but must settle disputes with, we increase the chance that bargaining, however lengthy, will pay off.
Negotiation 101: Bargain with the other side as if you thought they are OK-- potential dinner partners-- with no pre-conditions, and you may actually make a deal even if you hate them.