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The Play’s the Thing: A Sense of Drama and Six Other Marks of the Veteran Negotiator

By Tony English

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These, then, are the qualities of my ideal diplomatist. Truth, accuracy, calm, patience, good temper, modesty and loyalty…. “But,” the reader may object, “you have forgotten intelligence, knowledge, discernment, prudence, hospitality, charm, industry, courage and even tact.” I have not forgotten them. I have taken them for granted.   Harold Nicolson, Diplomacy, 1963


I apply the tag ‘veteran’ to negotiators with a reputation among their peers for consistent success over many years in diverse transactions. Why do these people tend to do the job better than other negotiators? This question is perennial in our field and any response that tries to make definitive links between cause and effect is bound to be strained and simplistic. Yet I have identified seven interactive ‘marks’-skills, inclinations and other traits-that seem to be stronger in veteran negotiators than the rest of the field. I do not claim my veterans are successful simply because they have this particular set of distinguishing features; only that the marks are prominent in international negotiation interviews gathered over many years from informants in diplomacy, business and hostage release. In a brief essay I cannot examine all seven marks in detail, so I will focus on the mark of drama, the one that most helps me to see how the veterans apply the other six. I shall turn to it after summarising the others.

The Play’s the Thing: A Sense of Drama and Six Other Marks of the Veteran Negotiator by Tony English


Copyright © 2012 Tony English
Copyright ©   2012  The Negotiator Magazine
The Negotiator Magazine  (June – July, 2012)