The Negotiator Magazine

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Reader’s Review

by John D. Baker

Black Belt Negotiating: Become a Master Negotiator Using Powerful Lessons from the Martial Arts

By Michael Soon Lee with Sensei Grant Tabuchi
224pp New York: AMACOM, 2007.
Soft cover Edition, $15.00

Michael Lee frames his book on negotiation by stating early on that “nearly every negotiating book ever written takes a win-win approach to agreements” (p. 27). Then, he proceeds to state that the distinguishing difference between his book and others in the negotiation field is the result of his unusual view. “This may come as a shock,” Lee writes, “but I believe that win-win is for losers” (p.27).

Until some years ago when Roger Fisher and William Ury published Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In (Houghton Mifflin Company, 1981), negotiation books were focused disproportionately on positional/win-lose negotiating schemes. In the last twenty-five years, of course, win-win schemes have been ascendant. Despite the author’s claim, however, positional negotiation books have not been the rarities he suggests and win-lose skeptics continue to flourish. For those of you who seek another direction in negotiation rather than collaborative/win-win, this book should be of significant interest.

“Nobody believes in win-win,” the author asserts” (page 27). The statement is clearly wrong on its face. In fact, as this statement demonstrates and illustrates, Lee has chosen to meander into an essentially unexplored commentary on competing schools of negotiation thought in what is a positional negotiation skills book. The author might well have been better served by a more closely reasoned and focused approach.

You will find in this brief work, a strategic explanation for the win-lose perspective on negotiation and a tactical skill set for its achievement. Let us examine some of these components you will find here. Obviously, this review can only touch upon some of these elements.

As you explore this book, you will discover advice on many aspects of negotiating. For example, Mr. Lee examines the importance of preparation, methods of gathering information before the beginning of the negotiation as well as the significance of asking good questions during the negotiation itself.

“Don’t assume,” the author tells us. The advice is critical to negotiation success. Talented and experienced negotiators come in all shapes and sizes. Almost every negotiator can recall encountering the negotiator so youthful in appearance, so extraordinary in personality style or so unusual in language or appearance as to completely throw off correct assessment by the opposition party. Incorrect assumptions, lead inevitably to more incorrect assumptions in negotiations that easily prove decisive at the table.

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October 2007