The Negotiator Magazine

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Reader’s Review

John Baker

The Skilled Negotiator: Mastering the Language of Engagement
By Kathleen Kelley Reardon
272pp. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2004.
Hardcover Edition: (US) $27.95

Kathleen Kelley Reardon is a professor of management at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business and a member of its MBA and International MBA Programs faculty. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Dr. Reardon is a widely recognized authority on persuasion and interpersonal communication and the author of six books as well as a member of several editorial and professional boards. Her current research focuses on persuasion, negotiation and the influence of gender on negotiations.

In The Skilled Negotiator, Dr. Reardon examines the practice of negotiation by focusing on “the language of negotiation: how strategy is converted to words” (p.236). She begins with a definition of the skilled negotiator and then proceeds to show her reader how this effective negotiator uses communications to achieve their objectives in the negotiating process. The result is a book of filled with solid and perceptive advice for the student of negotiations.

In Dr. Reardon’s view, the skilled negotiator is a careful observer and questioner who constantly is gathering insights and enhancing their perceptions of the situation, understands how communication works and operates through applying this knowledge with versatility.

The skilled negotiator is not committed to either “win-win” or “win-lose” approaches. They understand that successful negotiation is at its core an exercise in communication. She is quite right, of course, and the succeeding chapters of this book involve the reader in the essential steps in the application of this central thesis.

How then, do we become the skilled negotiator? We learn “the language of engagement.”

Much of this language is not new and we should know it. The author’s contribution, however, is a significant one in organizing its components, defining them and providing guides to their effective usage in negotiation.

If we are to be versatile and thereby effective in negotiations, we begin with “a mindset,” the author contends, “that expects shifts in perception” (p.11). We learn techniques to move the process, change perceptions and accommodate to differing interests and priorities.

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