The Negotiator Magazine

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Reader’s Review

John Baker

Negotiate To Win: The 21 Rules For Successful Negotiating
By Jim Thomas
320pp. New York: Collins, 2005.
Hardcover Edition (US) $ 22.95

Jim Thomas is a Washington, D.C. attorney, business owner and speaker. He has been a negotiator for over 25 years with experience in mergers and acquisitions, arms control, labor relations, trade and diplomacy, domestic and international business and a variety of other fields. He is the founder and CEO of Common Ground Seminars and a graduate of UCLA and Georgetown University Law Center.

Jim Thomas has a ready wit and sprinkles his “how-to” negotiate book with humor. For those who are devotees of “lawyer jokes,” it will provide some enjoyable moments. For those who are not so inclined, however, the author’s wry pokes at established truths keep the work lively.

The book is divided into three parts. The first part, The World Is a Big Blue Negotiating Table, provides a wide-ranging commentary on various aspects of the field of negotiation. Thomas begins with the broad assertion that “much of negotiation’s folklore turns out to be fiction” (p. 9). Does that blue suit or that particular shape of the table really matter, the author asks. Alas, it does not, he asserts and speeds on. And so, we find ourselves in the underlying pattern of the work. Interesting topics raised, quickly dealt with and then rapid movement to a next topic. It is a disconcerting pattern necessitated by trying to cover an astonishing number of subjects.

There may be only 21 rules, but there are a vast number of assertions on negotiation in this work. Among these are statements such as “Americans hate to negotiate. We find it embarrassing and tacky (p. 20).” As is the pattern, the case is closed quickly and the reader is off again to a new topic. This time it is the author’s assertion saving “face” is central human interaction. “Face is humankind’s third rail. Touch it and die” (p.34).

From all this, Thomas concludes, win-win negotiating is the only viable method since it alone assures that all participants can save face. There is more here, but far from enough to get beyond the most basic assumption stages. I found it a disappointing beginning to the work.

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November 2005