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Negotiating: Virtues of Integrity

By JemmaBlythe Alexander Shelton-Spurr (JB Shelton)

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“There is nothing so delightful as the hearing or the speaking of truth. For this reason, there is no conversation so agreeable as that of a man of integrity, who hears without any intention to betray, and speaks without any intention to deceive,” wrote Plato. The Greek philosopher, who lived from 427 to 347 BC, provides a perfect description of the modern negotiator with an innate dedication to a personal moral imperative.

Pursue and Persevere

Integrity is a strict adherence to a moral code of honesty and harmony in thoughts, words and actions. It means possessing firm principles and professional standards. The word’s Latin derivation refers to being sound and whole.

It is essential to face the reality that negotiating with integrity is a challenge worth pursuit and perseverance. Determine your foci and work diligently as the flow of your efforts reach fruition. It is who you are, as your consistent better self goes beyond negotiations into all your life’s priorities.

The Principled Negotiator

The principled negotiator strives for success by self-examination. She proves to herself and to others that having a conscience is not an endangered position. Answering these questions will provide insights, from logical and comforting to revealing and surprising:

  1. What does having integrity mean to you as a negotiator?
  2. How strongly do you value communications and interactions based on honesty?
  3. Are you consistent in your behavior toward your opponents?

Dangerous and Dreadful

“Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful,” wrote 18th century English author Samuel Johnson.

As you prepare for your next negotiation, keep your answers to the self-examination questions in mind and heart. Mentally review a recent, successful negotiation and admit to yourself where your integrity was lacking, how you over-reacted in responding to your opponent, and when you broke the bond of your own principles.

Follow through on your commitment. Re-examine yourself for the next negotiation and those to follow. Mentally commit to changes that will enhance your integrity.

Skeptical, not Cynical

“Confidence in others’ honesty is no light testimony of one’s own integrity,” wrote 16th century French philosopher Michel de Montaigne. Journalism school students are taught to be skeptical, not cynical. The classic example is, “If your mother says she loves you, check out two other sources.”

Researching your opponent will reveal basic facts and fictions, give an historical perspective about his previous negotiations, and provide insights into his negotiating style. Enter a negotiation fully prepared to believe your opponent, but allow your suspicions to linger when his statements, written materials and body language strike you as less than the epitome of honesty.

Be thoughtful, patient and judicious before bringing up your doubts about his veracity. If you decide his honesty is an issue, communicate directly and specifically, without accusation and anger.

Integrity Without Game Playing

“Nothing more completely baffles one who is full of tricks and duplicity than straightforward and simple integrity,” wrote 18th century English cleric Charles Caleb Colton.

Oh, the games we professional negotiators play. Pretending to appeal to a higher authority when we have final say. Communicating to confuse rather than clarify. Arranging a phone call to interrupt a meeting and apologetically fleeing the scene to garner more time.

Carefully consider the games you often play because you’ve found them successful. They may appear to be essential components of your performance as a successful negotiator. Think creatively about ways to replace the games with equally effective negotiating techniques. If you make a conscious decision to keep the games in your repertoire, realize you are being honest — but only with yourself.


Two 20th century visionaries provide further inspiration for you to negotiate with integrity and live with a joyful awareness of your own self worth.

Buddhist leader Daisaku Ikeda said, “When you live with integrity, your hearts begin to fill with a happiness as vast as the universe. It’s about being true to yourself and starting from where you are.”

English photographer Sir Cecil Beaton wrote, “Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the victims of the ordinary.”

Become your own visionary. Envision your reputation as a negotiator who is respected and admired for his integrity.

JB Shelton Photo
JemmaBlythe Alexander Shelton-Spurr (JB Shelton) is a journalist based in Raleigh and Oxford, NC. She writes about children growing up and grownups reinventing themselves. JB teaches ‘Reinvent Yourself in Writing’ at Duke University in Durham, NC. Reach her by e-mail at [email protected].

Copyright © 2012 JemmaBlythe Alexander Shelton-Spurr
Copyright ©   2012  The Negotiator Magazine
The Negotiator Magazine  (October, 2012)