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Reader’s Review
John Baker

The Only Negotiating Guide You’ll Ever Need: 101 Ways To Win Every Time in Any Situation
By Peter B. Stark and Jane Flaherty
223pp. New York: Broadway Books, 2003
Paperback Edition: (US) $14.00

Let me be candid. I have a skepticism about books that promise to teach me everything I need to know about anything. I also have a skeptical view of books that offer me seven keys, 12 steps, 101 Dalmatians or 1001 secrets to a better garden/home/life.

As a category, this numeric genre is always well represented at airport newsstands and bookstores and a fair sampling of its negotiation entrants arrives at my desk. Seldom, do I choose to review these works as popular as they may prove to be in the marketplace. This review is one of those exceptions. Why?

Peter B. Stark and Jane Flaherty are international consultants and training experts in the field of negotiation with the firm of Peter Barron Stark & Associates in San Diego, California. They have produced a work that provides a handy reference to many negotiation topics that readers will find useful. Whether you will find it the only book on negotiation you will need if you wish to become an expert in this complex field, I doubt.

All this said by way of introduction, Stark and Flaherty provide the reader with an overview of the field and explore its key components. Several sections standout and will be of particular value to the reader. Among these are the sections on listening skills; non-verbal signals; behavioral styles and of course, the main focus of the book, an exploration of 101 tactics.

Mastery of each of these elements is essential to the skill portfolio of every successful negotiator. “The best negotiators,” the authors assert, ” are almost always the best listeners” (p.37). True enough, of course, but many of us agree and then continue with our old habits. This is a book that centers one’s attention on these critical fundamentals.

The authors make a solid case for honing communication skills. “… the untrained listener is likely to understand and retain about 50 percent of a conversation,” we are told (p.37). Then, the point is underscored as the authors observe that research shows that retention will drop even further to 25 percent within 48 hours. It is a convincing case, followed by solid advice on improving both active and interactive listening skills.

The authors then turn their attention to the area of non-verbal signals. Stark and Flaherty cite research showing that “… as much as 90 percent of the meaning transmitted between two people in face-to-face communications is via non-verbal channels”(p.45). Obviously, if we miss the non-verbal exchange we leave ourselves seriously handicapped in any negotiation.

The trained communicator learns to read their counterpart’s non-verbal signals, become aware of their own non-verbal signals and effectively manage this silent communication channel. A brief, but well-constructed primer on non-verbal communication follows that negotiators will find helpful both for reading their counterpart and for recognizing their own projected signals.

A third and closely related section explores the behavioral dimension of human interaction. Just as skillful listening and careful recognition of non-verbal signals are basic to effective communication, identifying and adjusting to differing behavioral types is a vital skill for the negotiator. Never the less, the authors correctly point out that “most people undervalue the impact of behavioral styles on a negotiation” (p.68).

The authors utilize a model distinguishing four basic behavioral types: Amiables, Drivers, Analyticals and Blends. You will find a valuable section providing the essential clues to deciphering and working successfully with the four major behavioral types.

The second half of the book is devoted to exploring 101 negotiation tactics that the negotiator may employ or encounter as techniques to accomplish a given result in negotiations. It is a handy listing that defines each tactic, provides an example of its usage and offers an appropriate counter response it. Every negotiator will find old friends and villains well represented here with names appended to each to serve as memory-joggers.

Tactics include “I’ll Meet You in the Middle” (splitting the difference); “Yikes! You’ve Got to be Kidding” (flinching); “Take It or Leave It;” and 98 more.

There is, of course, far more in this book than this review can touch upon.

Recommended as a handy guide for the new negotiator.

John Baker, Ph.D.
Editor, The Negotiator Magazine

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