The Negotiator Magazine

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Reader’s Review

John Baker

How to Negotiate Like a Child: Unleash the Little Monster Within to Get Everything You Want
By Bill Adler, Jr.
161pp. New York: American Management Association, 2006
Hardcover Edition (US) $ 17.95

Bill Adler, Jr. is the president of Adler & Robin Books, Inc., literary agency and book packaging firm, as well as a prolific writer who has published more than a dozen books on a variety of topics. He writes with humor and wit that has made hits out of such disparate shelf mate subjects as Outwitting Squirrels, Outwitting Contractors, Outwitting Neighbors and other similar as well as unusual topics. It appears that this is his first work on negotiation, produced and promoted by the American Management Association.

The topic of children as natural and skilled negotiators with their contemporaries as well as adults has become a popular one in writing on negotiations in recent years. Unquestionably, the tactics employed by children are identifiable and effective in achieving toys, snacks and other privileges for fulfilling their desires or avoiding other demands.

Most negotiators will remember their own childhood experiences encountering and/or using the negotiating tactics that form the core content of Mr. Adler’s book. Let us pause a moment to list some of the book’s selection of tactics. A half dozen or so will certainly provide the map: Throw a tantrum; Play one side against the other; Get sympathy; Change the rules; Solicit a bribe; Turn the negotiations into a game; Act irrationally; Make weak promises; etc., etc., etc.

Most of us have had those children’s techniques refreshed over the years through observations in stores, experiences as unexpected airplane seat mates of bored young people and through direct interactions with children and sometimes with adults using these tactics. You will find these tactics outlined throughout the core of this work. They are of course, interesting reading.

When all is said, however, I wonder how many of you would agree with the author’s central assertions about these tactics and their power. Would you agree that “children are the best negotiators in the world”(p.1)? Would you agree with the author’s conclusion that “If you learn how to negotiate like a child you will be able to get practically everything you want” (p.2)?

This reviewer certainly does not agree with either assertion. Certainly, each of these tactics may appear in any negotiation and sometimes even play a decisive role in the outcome. A wise negotiator certainly needs to know these tactics.

On-the-other-hand, children are rarely used as negotiators or strategists by even the most avaricious businesses or individuals to make complex deals. Why? The answer, of course, is that these tactics do not provide the framework required for success in an adult world of negotiations involving long-term goals, relationships and reputations.

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December 2005