The Negotiator Magazine

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Reader’s Review

John Baker

The core of the book, of course, is its second part, The 21 Rules of Negotiating. Here are the “how to” prescriptions. The author begins with 7 “critical” rules; moves quickly to 4 “important, but obvious” rules and concludes with 10 “nice to do” rules. It is a daunting task to set before any budding negotiator.

With all of this to conquer, the good news is that the first of the 21 rules is the most important. Rule 1 sums up the author’s view that “trading is what negotiating is all about (p. 51).”

The rest of the book builds on this first insight. As the reader proceeds they learn how to set goals, make concessions, analyze positions, use creativity, et al.

The less joyous news from this reader’s perspective is that in developing this core, the author has decided to deal with everything one can imagine about negotiating. The reader learns correctly that the essence of negotiation is trading, not giving. Learn this, and one has come a long way towards effective negotiating. That established, we move quickly to “how to” achieve a successful outcome. Twenty more rules await.

For the new negotiator, the sections dealing with concession strategies and showing the importance of establishing patterns and illustrating such sequences will be most welcome. What will rapidly lose its illustrative charm for most readers, however, is the author’s focus on “krunches,”methods of gaining concessions in the bargaining process. “The krunch,” Thomas tells his reader, “is the simplest and most frequently tool in negotiating (p.284).” This reviewer strongly doubts that assertion, but Thomas drives his point home for his readers with illustrations of sample “krunches” galore over more than a half of a dozen pages.

Having explored “krunches’ in depth, Thomas moves to “nibbles.” “Nibbling is a part of doing a complete job as a negotiator,” the author asserts (p. 285). In his view, a bit and a bite here and there is appropriate and necessary as the negotiation moves along. Add to this his view that all deals should be negotiated as packages with all agreements on issues treated as tentative until entire deal is complete, and “nibbling” becomes paramount as a strategy at the close of a negotiation. “The stupid period” at the end of a negotiation, “is when you nibble,” Thomas states. (p. 104). Readers, of course, will wish to consider the wisdom of such a course carefully before applying it on any deal.

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November 2005