The Negotiator Magazine

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Reading Negotiators Like a Book

Henry H. Calero

For a period of fourteen years I negotiated with major subcontractors while employed by two major Aero Space companies. During this period, I was a good student and learned a great deal from more experienced negotiators who handed down an enormous amount of awareness and wisdom. Most of this knowledge had to do with such things as strategy and tactics, aggressive versus passive approaches, the timing of offers and compromises, etc. Not a single one of these negotiators, however, ever mentioned “reading people.”

Then, in the mid-l 960s, I started a consulting firm specializing in negotiating and conducting seminars on the subject. At that time, it was very difficult to gather any written information on negotiating because very little existed. It wasn’t until1970 when Gerard I. Nierenberg wrote The Art of Negotiating that anyone had published a noteworthy understanding of the process. Until that point I had little or no written information and was primarily going on the experience I had plus what others had given me. I realized I needed something that would give me a greater understanding of the nature of negotiating.

It has been said that “timing is important in the discovery process” and I was blessed with that expression. Shortly after I began my business, I saw an ad in a newspaper about something called a “videotape recorder” made by Sony. It was a tiny 6″ monitor that had a single reel-to-reel recording device. Since I had been thinking of recording case study negotiations on film, I realized this new equipment would be less costly.

I purchased one of the first Sony videotape recorders in California and in a few weeks started using it for recording case study negotiations in my seminars. I recorded the negotiation and then played it back so the participants could see and hear what had transpired. Thus, it was a wonderful learning tool for purposes of understanding the interpersonal dynamics in a negotiation. It was also very impressive because many of the seminar attendees had never heard of videotapes and left the programs I conducted with a feeling they had participated in something very new and different.

I continued conducting negotiating seminars principally for Aero Space Industry companies in California without thinking of venturing outside that industry or the State. I had my hands full with seminars on my schedule and was not looking for additional business elsewhere.

Then, one Sunday morning I read an article in the Los Angeles Times about a New York attorney who had written a book on negotiation entitled The Art of Negotiating. I was thrilled to discover that someone in the country was interested in the subject and had written a book on it. That morning I wrote a letter to the newspaper writer who wrote the article and another letter addressed to the New York attorney expressing my joy in what he had written.

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February 2005