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Reader’s Review, December 2011 – January 2012

By John D. Baker

How to Win Any Negotiation: Without Raising Your Voice,
Losing Your Cool, or Coming to Blows

By Robert Mayer
288pp. Pompton Plains, NJ, 2006
Paperback (USA) $15.99

Robert Mayer is a negotiator with over forty years of experience “… negotiating deals on everything from amphitheaters to Zero aircraft” for thousands of clients (p.14). In addition to this broad and extensive experience as an active negotiator, Mr. Mayer tells us that he has supplemented his own knowledge of negotiation by “… studying the world’s master deal-makers – the street and bazaar merchants of Bombay, Cairo, Istanbul and Shanghai” (p.14).

Mr. Mayer holds degrees in both business and law from the University of California at Berkeley. He is the author of several books, a frequent guest negotiation expert on radio and television, and a popular provider of seminars and workshops on negotiation. There is no doubt that he is an expert in negotiation skills.

Mr. Mayer’s work is rich in suggestions about handling dozens of negotiating topics, peppered with observations about human behavior, and filled with negotiation techniques for handling the common and uncommon dilemmas and situations inherent in negation. It is a first-rate negotiation skills primer certain to be useful to the new negotiator and to jog a host of memories in the experienced negotiator. It surely worked that way for me.

Let me add one critical caveat before we look at the range of this work’s material. Do not expect to find the whole array of negotiating skills available to the practitioner in this one book. It is not there and the author makes no such promise. This book is a sampler of essential skills, not a compendium of the possible. Importantly too, in this writer’s view, the author states at the beginning of his work that “there is no one-size fits all approach” (p.14). In this reviewer’s opinion, if a reader took away nothing more from this book than an understanding of the accuracy of that statement, they would have gained the most important single insight necessary to succeed as a negotiator.

Advice from the author is throughout the book, usually in brief statements or embedded in the negotiating anecdotes. You will find solid, tried and tested wisdom for the negotiator: never lead with a threat, “nothing is as sacred as one’s own judgment,” avoid hype, are typical of author’s advisory comments. It is a long and helpful listing for the inexperienced negotiator.

Beyond this, Mayer takes his reader through many of the tricks and ploys used by some negotiators to gain advantage in the making of deals. The author’s wide-ranging focus on the techniques employed in the negotiating gambit is sure to bring either a smile or a grimace to every negotiator who has encountered them and a word of praise from those yet to meet some of the cast. I think, for example of my own early experience with being led into a long and vast office and finding myself assigned to an unusually low and uncomfortable chair separated by sea of green carpet from a great barrier desk behind which the other negotiator, the firm’s owner, was enshrined. Events such as this are rare, but do happen to enliven a negotiating career. Encountering such oddments for the first time in a book is certainly better than a real-world introduction.

The book concludes with looks at 36 common negotiating situations ranging from leasing or purchasing property through contracting for work to settling insurance claims.


John D. Baker, Ph.D.

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The Negotiator Magazine (December 2011 – January 2012) Copyright © 2011,2012 The Negotiator Magazine