The Negotiator Magazine

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The critical skill in negotiations is to select the best approach for the situation. The negotiator seeks to do so by assessing the other parties, adjusting rapidly to the shifting perception of reality emerging from the interactions of the parties, maintaining an ethical course and walking away when the process has no reasonable expectation of creating acceptable value.

Jim Camp is clearly disturbed by the pursuit of win-win negotiations as a required standard to measure success in every negotiation. He is quite correct in that concern. Such a goal is a sadly misguided perception of the negotiating process. It can only lead to a series of lost opportunities, illusionary glories and hidden failures. Mr. Camp, therefore, makes a valuable contribution in pointing out the weakness of such a position.

On-the-other-hand, readers will not find a compelling case to abandon the win-win approach to negotiations. Jim Camp focuses on its warts, but moves on to his own system rather than exploring in depth the central tenets of "interest-based" negotiations.

The promise of the "interest-based" approach to negotiations, as in all human endeavors, depends on the integrity, the acumen and the skills of its practitioners. It is an approach that must be used wisely and rests on establishing true collaboration by the parties.

There is a clear record that many experienced negotiators use this approach with great effect. Applied correctly, "interest-based" negotiations can expand horizons, discover synergies and deliver to each party more than either imagined possible in an appropriate setting. Experienced negotiators know when it is appropriate and when it is not correct. They also know how to shift to another approach and do so in the blink of an eye.

All this said, Jim Camp’s book presents far more than a contrarian view of win-win negotiations, it offers an alternative approach to the field. Camp advocates "decision-based" negotiations in contrast to the "interest-based" approach that he rejects.

The key to Jim Camp’s approach rests on the fundamental premise that to succeed in negotiations, the negotiator must concentrate upon what they can control, their own part of the negotiation, not the actions of their adversaries. Assume nothing, expect nothing, need nothing and fear nothing. These are key precepts.

Having that, the negotiator’s role is do thorough research and then operate as if their mind was a "blank slate" (p.136). Purged as much as possible from preconceptions, the negotiator uses the negotiation interaction to gather and interpret their adversary’s verbal and behavioral signals in order to uncover the hidden or unrecognized needs that lie at the adversary’s core.

In the Camp approach, you begin with the position that "you do not need this deal" (p.22). Make this clear to your adversary also, by reiterating that "no" is a perfectly acceptable outcome to the negotiations and hold to it. The result is control.

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