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Chapter III

Who Should Negotiate

Before discussing the various elements and procedures of negotiations, it is necessary to consider what kind of an individual makes the best negotiator. This is one of the most highly specialized activities in which a man can operate and all men do not possess the attributes to enable them to do so successfully.

Speaking generally, negotiations are conducted by either one man or by a team of individuals. Where the subject matter is important and complicated, I am a firm believer in the team approach wherever possible.

No one man can properly conduct the actual negotiations, provide all the necessary back-stopping and technical data, keep notes, closely observe opponents’ reactions across the table, think up required tactical diversionary maneuvers, and finally reduce to writing the document of agreement itself.

There are two basic principles which should be adhered to in any team negotiation. First, to achieve the best possible results, always field the first team—not the second team or the reserves.

This is the area where many negotiations never really get off the ground because of the lack of understanding on the part of those responsible for setting up the team, of the importance of the subject matter and the necessary attributes of a good negotiator. As a consequence, the wrong people are chosen for the job and the results are bound to reflect these mistakes.


Secondly, in any team negotiation, one man must always be the quarterback and be in full and complete charge at the table. Without strict discipline in this regard the negotiation will invariably get out of hand, confusion will result and mistakes will be made.

Obviously, this quarterback is the key man on the team because he is the one who has the responsibility for conducting the negotiations. This person may not be the ablest man at the table from a technical point of view. His job, however, is to know where to get needed data and then make the best use of it.

Having discussed the team approach to negotiations and the two basic principles of a team effort, let us now examine the type of individual who should be entrusted with the task of heading the team and conducting the actual negotiations. If a negotiation is to be conducted by one man rather than by a team, that man should meet the tests to be discussed to an even greater degree than a team captain, because the lone negotiator has no one to help him.

First of all, we need to consider human traits, not academic or professional qualifications. We will assume here that all potential candidates for this job are men of reasonable intellect, good habits and behavior.

Some men are introverts, others extroverts. I would never choose an introvert to be a negotiator. A happy medium is the answer here.

Some men talk well but say nothing, while others are readily understood at the risk of being referred to as plain spoken, blunt or even caustic. I would choose the plain speaking individual on the theory that it is much easier to find a good, plain spoken negotiator who is also a gentleman, than it is to find a well spoken gentleman who is also a good negotiator.

Some men never want to face an issue and will go to great lengths to prevent a situation from reaching the issue stage, while others are at their best when confronting issues. I would select the man who is not afraid to face an issue head on.


Some men have no conviction whatsoever, while others not only have convictions but, in addition, have the strength of their convictions. A good negotiator must be a man capable of having and fighting for convictions.

Some men are constitutionally unable to make decisions, while others have no hesitancy whatsoever in doing so. This decision making ability really has two parts; first, the ability to make them and, secondly, the accuracy of the decisions so made. This distinction is rather subtle and I will illustrate exactly what I mean.

My initial duty in the Navy was in the Office of Censorship. During the war the Navy was censoring all cables to and from the United States while the Army did likewise will all mail. I was a so-called censor. We were attempting to discern if code was being used and could pass, delete, paraphrase or suppress each cable coming to our desk. Well I remember some censors who could never make up their minds what to do with a cable. They would worry and fret all day reading and rereading the same cables. Others took action in a reasonable time and moved ahead. I always remembered this when later I had to mark civilian efficiency reports. At that time the government was using the old forms and one question was “ability to make decisions.” The Civil Service pamphlet of instructions stated that, in marking this question, no account was to be taken of the accuracy of decisions. However, a separate question to be marked was “accuracy of decisions.” The distinction made a great impression upon me and I never forgot it.

A good negotiator must be capable of making decisions—assuming he has the authority to do so—and his decisions must be right ninety-five percent of the time.

Some men are eager to assume more and greater responsibility and authority, while others shun both. To be a good negotiator, a man should be able to assume additional and unexpected responsibility in stride.


Some men are unable to comprehend the distinction between self-confidence and ego. A good negotiator must have an abundance of self-confidence but know when the fine line has been reached which separates that trait from ego.

Some men have a sense of humor and realize its importance while others have none at all. A sense of humor is an indispensable tool in a good negotiator’s kit and I would never select a man to negotiate who was devoid of a sense of humor.

Some men are experts at finding reasons why something cannot be done, while others think affirmatively and look for ways to get something done. Obviously, a negative thinker will never make a good negotiator.

Some men are policy level type individuals, who may have no idea of how to actually carry out an idea or put a policy into effect, while other men are much more practical than theoretical and have the ability to make a policy fully operative.

Obviously, both types of men serve a useful purpose in this world, but care must be taken when choosing a man to negotiate, to pick a thoroughly practical man, rather than a policy maker who may spend most of his time far removed from the day to day operating facts of life.

A man who combines the human traits discussed and decided upon, would be the type of man we could be sure was both mentally tough and practical. This is a must, for a good negotiator.

Do not get the impression that this is an easy exercise to go through to decide mental toughness. On the contrary, these standards cannot be readily applied to strangers, they can only be applied to persons we have known for some time or persons with the requisite reputation. Actually, the person to whom these standards can be applied the fastest is yourself.

Having found the man who comes the closest to embodying these attributes, we have made a good start—but only a start—in our search for a potentially good negotiator.


Now we must see if this man possesses the right psychological attitude toward a negotiation.

Many men feel that it is wrong to question the statements and motives of other men and take pride in the fact that they accept other people at face value. This is indeed an enviable characteristic under certain circumstances.

When, however, you have the responsibility of negotiating on behalf of others, you cannot indulge this luxury—you must question motives as well as statements and not take your opposite numbers across the table at face value. If, as we shall see later, you have properly prepared for the negotiation, you will have researched your opponents’ past dealings, history and performance and this knowledge and experience cannot be disregarded.

What we are trying to find now is a happy medium between a naďve man and a cynic—I would say a skeptic. I would never select a man to be a negotiator unless that man had the intestinal fortitude to require satisfactory evidence rather than embrace face value acceptance.

It is important to bear in mind that we are now only considering the qualifications of the man to be the negotiator or quarterback of the team. We are not considering the type of men who may be his team members.

To digress a moment in this regard, it should be remembered that while the negotiator himself should be a very definite type of individual, his team members may include other types and at least one should be a completely antithetic type person to the negotiator.

Care should be taken in this regard because both types of men need to be included on a strong team. The reason is apparent—they implement each other and make possible a greater exchange of divergent views—away from the table.

On any negotiating team that I might head, I would always try to include at least one man who I knew had opinions that differed


from my own, and who was not afraid to make known his views to me.

If we now have a man, who by the standards mentioned is tough minded, practical and a skeptic, we have almost fulfilled the basic requirements for the type of man who will make the best negotiator. There remains one further major test to apply to our prospect.

This test is the man's desire—conscious or unconscious—to be well liked or popular. In other words, does our potential negotiator fully understand that he must, by his behavior and actions command respect without being popular and well liked? This test is so important that it could be considered first and anyone not meeting it be forthwith disqualified. I say this because it can be stated categorically that any man who wishes to be well liked and popular with those across the table from him, will never make a first team negotiator.

In my opinion, labor negotiators are the finest examples of men who have learned this lesson well. While it is true these men can adopt certain attitudes because they have the ability to back up their demands with a strike, they nevertheless are completely impervious to what the other side thinks of them personally.

Actually, as a negotiator's popularity index goes up with his opposite numbers, his effectiveness as a negotiator goes down. I learned long ago that when people with whom we were negotiating would come to me and tell me what a fine job my negotiators were doing or had done, that negotiator was suspect. Conversely, when people would come to me and complain about my negotiators, I had a feeling they were doing their job, because whenever negotiators operate without complaints, I look to see if something is wrong. Persons unfamiliar with what negotiations really are and how they should be conducted do not understand this reasoning because they are trained to feel that no complaints is a sign of a well run operation. Not so negotiations.


I have discussed this philosophy with British friends who have been negotiating on behalf of the United Kingdom for many years and they learned long ago that when a foreign country circulates derogatory reports about a British negotiator, it was a sign to the British that their man was doing a good job and conversely when a country would indicate what a fine fellow the British negotiator was, it was time to check on what kind of a job this negotiator was doing for the United Kingdom.

In this connection, I think it is not only shortsighted but most unfair to the individuals involved to assign negotiating functions to men whose primary job requires them to be well liked and popular. This is true both in industry and government.

For example, I recall a very large concern doing business with the government that formerly permitted their top government salesmen to solicit the business and then negotiate the terms and conditions of the contracts. This makes about as much sense as having the same man fill the job of sales manager and purchasing agent.

A salesman must be well liked and have many friendly contacts and to encumber him with the completely foreign function of negotiating with the same people he is selling is a mistake. This company finally realized that the salesman could do his job more effectively if they sent a person from the home office to haggle on terms and price and leave the salesman free to listen and agree with the procurement officers when they later would criticize the negotiator—as usually happens.

Likewise in government, it is unrealistic to expect the average foreign service officer to be proficient at negotiating, when they have never been trained to negotiate and their principle job is to be salesmen for the United States. Moreover, these people are part of a system, the same as military personnel, and to advance within the system, it is much better to be well liked, both at home and in the foreign country where they may be stationed. They know that


if they do anything in a manner which meets with the displeasure of a host country—and negotiating properly for the United States can easily do this—the word will simply be passed that this man does not understand the local situation, etc. That is why we should have full time negotiators who can go out from Washington, do their job and leave the country after they are finished.

To summarize, if we have found a man who is reasonable intelligent and presentable, who is mentally tough and practical, who psychologically is a skeptic and who understands where respect stops and popularity starts, we have, in my opinion, a potentially sound negotiator.

I suspect this description will make some people wince a little, because when they try these tests on for size, they do not fit. It should be kept in mind that no attempt is being made to criticize those who do not meet these rigid specifications and it is not here suggested that one failing to meet them cannot negotiate at all.

The point I wish to make is that like any other vocation, there will always be good, bad or indifferent categories of performance, but by applying the tests set out herein to a man, the chances are much greater that a more capable negotiator can be developed with consequent better results at the table.

The question naturally arises of where to look for this type of individual. My experience in this field, which includes considerable hiring of so-called negotiators and negotiator trainees, has led me to conclude that there is no particular category of business, profession or educational institution, which contains a natural reservoir of persons likely to meet these specifications and become good negotiators. I do not believe that the process whereby our educational machinery grinds our foreign service graduates, military officers, lawyers, doctors, accountants, scientists, etc., by the thousands every year, can be adapted to the mass production of outstanding negotiators. Each category mentioned can produce some raw ma-


terial to make a good negotiator, but not because of being in any of those categories.

For example, I hired three young men to go to Europe with me on one occasion to become negotiators. All three had Harvard law degrees and I thought I had screened these men thoroughly. One turned out to be an excellent negotiator, one a fair negotiator and the other a poor negotiator and the test which controlled this result was their mental toughness. All three were able lawyers but all three should not be negotiators.

To me, finding a good negotiator prospect and developing him to become an outstanding negotiator, is like looking for gold or breeding a Man-of-War.

It is probably this very difficulty of discovery and selection, plus a basic lack of comprehension of what constitutes a good negotiator, that has resulted in both industry and government turning important negotiating functions over to specialists in other fields.

Thus, we find industry calling upon their lawyers, accountants, engineers and even sales personnel to negotiate for them. In government, our Department of State finds it necessary for important international negotiations, to turn to Wall Street lawyers not connected with the Department, or give the less important negotiations to members of an Embassy staff who are without training as negotiators.

My own observations and experience convince me that the most prevalent mistake made by both government and industry is the assumption that position and authority are synonymous with knowledge and ability to negotiate properly and effectively.

Thus, corporate officers, Cabinet officials, Ambassadors, high ranking military men, agency heads, etc., who possess both title and authority, are presumed to be perfectly capable of conducting involved and important negotiations. This can be a very violent presumption.

It is quite true that a title and the authority that goes with a title, can be of great assistance to a good negotiator at the table, but they


cannot substitute for the ability to negotiate. When, for example, our Department of State drafts a Wall Street lawyer to negotiate for them and then gives that man the title of Ambassador, he is actually no better or no worse a negotiator than he was before he was drafted.

What is patently required today, if for government and industry—particularly government—to devise programs for the discovery of potentially good negotiators and then train these men to be full time, career negotiators. Obviously, these men could perform other work when not actually negotiating, but they would be specialists in the art of negotiation.

Having thus laid a firm foundation, these specialists could then have their overall effectiveness enhanced by the proper title, authority and pay.



Cover, Contents, & Introduction

About the Author


I.  Introduction

II.  What is Negotiation

III.  Who Should Negotiate

IV.  Preparation for Negotiation

V.  Conduct of a Negotiation

A—Things To Do

B—Things Not To Do

VI.  Conclusions