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The Art of Negotiation

How to Improvise Agreement in a Chaotic World

By Michael Wheeler
16-minute read
Audio available
The Art of Negotiation: How to Improvise Agreement in a Chaotic World by Michael Wheeler

The Art of Negotiation offers a radical approach not found in most books on negotiation: no two negotiations are the same, and thus there is no silver-bullet strategy to negotiation. Rather, it offers insights on how to develop the skills to succeed in dynamic and unpredictable negotiations.

  • Anyone who sweats bullets at the negotiating table
  • Anyone who wants to negotiate a higher salary
  • Anyone who wants to feel more secure in everyday and business communication

Michael Wheeler is professor at the Harvard Business School who has taught negotiation techniques to thousands of students. In addition, he is editor of the Negotiation Journal, published by Harvard Law School and lives in Gloucester, Massachusetts.

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The Art of Negotiation

How to Improvise Agreement in a Chaotic World

By Michael Wheeler
  • Read in 16 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 10 key ideas
The Art of Negotiation: How to Improvise Agreement in a Chaotic World by Michael Wheeler
Synopsis

The Art of Negotiation offers a radical approach not found in most books on negotiation: no two negotiations are the same, and thus there is no silver-bullet strategy to negotiation. Rather, it offers insights on how to develop the skills to succeed in dynamic and unpredictable negotiations.

Key idea 1 of 10

The secret to successful negotiation is to prepare a plan beforehand, but not necessarily stick to it.

Imagine you’re in an important salary negotiation, and you know exactly what you want: you know that you’re worth $120,000 per year – not less! – and so you naturally demand this amount. But what do you do when they say no? More than likely, you’ll lose confidence and control of the negotiation, and consequently leave the negotiating table with far less than you had expected.

Well, it’s good that you knew what you wanted. But you hadn’t prepared a map that considers many acceptable paths and outcomes so that you can make the most of your negotiations.

Your map should start by first identifying what your ultimate target is, i.e., your stretch goal, along with several baselines, or minimum acceptable outcomes. This way, if your negotiating partner doesn’t accept your stretch goal, then you have something else to fall back on.

Baselines are important, as your negotiating partner has their own goals which often contradict with your own.

Let’s look at that hypothetical salary negotiation: if your stretch goal of $120,000 is rejected, then you can fall back on your baselines. Your baselines might be things like “a yearly salary of $100,000” or “$90,000 plus stock options.”

While maps are practically useful, they are also useful in another crucial way: just feeling like you know where you are going can give you the confidence you need to succeed.

It was this very principle that saved a military patrol unit from certain death after becoming lost in the Swiss Alps back in the 1930s. The unit was in danger of dying in the wilderness when one soldier found a map in his pocket, which the team then followed to safety. The interesting thing here is that this wasn’t even a map of the Alps, but the Pyrenees!

Yet, the assumption that they knew where they were heading nevertheless gave them the confidence to make it out alive.

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