Before beginning a Hunt, it is wise to ask someone what you are looking for — before you begin
looking for it.

Winnie the Pooh



“We must always think about things, and we must think about things as they are, not as they are said to be.”

"The moment we want to believe something, we suddenly see all the arguments for it, and become blind to the arguments against it.

Sir Isaac Newton


Patience is the companion of wisdom.

St Augustine


the 10 powers of negotiation


In researching Nelson Mandela's historic negotiations with the South African apartheid regime, I identified ten beacons of knowledge or “powers” of negotiation he had mastered. I called them "The 10 Powers of Negotiation."

What intrigued me about these Powers was how many of them were non-technical. Equally intriguing was how Nelson Mandela managed to apply them simultaneously while under such intense pressure.

Why I called these "Powers" of Negotiation...

I think we can all agree that knowledge is "power." And because I believe it is impossible to develop negotiating skills without truly understanding Nelson Mandela's beacons of knowledge, it struck me that this knowledge base was indeed a collection of "Powers."

What makes these Powers so intriguing...

What makes these Powers particularly intriguing is that they must all be applied simultaneously. You therefore must have the ability to multi-task and to focus on more than one Power at a time. To accomplish this, the best negotiators organize themselves in teams with different team members being assignd to focus on specific Powers.

What are the Powers?

Again, what is important to note about these Powers is that they are not to be applied sequentially. Each Power is interrelated with all of the others...

The power of understanding the process.

The power of preparation.

The power of positioning.

The power of dignity, congeniality and humor.

The power of truth and greed.

The power of common sense.

The power of listening and seeing.

The power of attitude, courage and morality.

The power of patience.

The power of being able to walk away.

A more detailed explanation of the 10 Powers:

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the power of understanding the process

A negotiation is an ongoing process. For the best negotiators, the process is always collaborative and not competitive. It is always positive and constructive. It is never personal.

The negotiation process always consists of multiple negotiations within negotiations. For example, the first negotiation is always about the goals of the parties. It is a negotiation about the goals of the negotiation. If you can't agree on the goal of the negotiation, there is nothing further to negotiate about. A negotiation is an ongoing process. For the best negotiators, the process is always collaborative and not competitive. It is always positive and constructive. It is never personal.

There is no mystery, for example, about the failure of the Israeli and Palestinian peace negotiations. Where one party refuses to acknowledge the other exists or should exist and the other party wants to negotiate how the two sides should live together, there is no common goal for the negotiations and hence no real starting point.

Once the goal of the negotiation has been agreed upon, however, the focus then shifts to the journey and how you and the other side propose to reach those goals. This is another phase of the negotiation process. This process doesn't end until there is either agreement or one of the parties walks away.



the power of preparation

Once goals are identified, the next step is to decide on the strategy for reaching those goals. Think of it as a journey. You first have to agree on your common destination. You then need a map to figure out the best way to get there.

The primary focus in crafting a strategy for getting there has to be on the other side. Without understanding the other side and what it wants, you'll never find a route that will be acceptable to it. This requires preparation...

In preparing for upcoming negotiations, you therefore have to look at the deal through their eyes. You have to know as much as you possibly can about them, their decision-making process, their decision-makers and the make-up of their negotiating team. This is important because you also have to identify someone on the other side who you can make a hero. Crafting a successful negotiation is about making someone on their side a hero.

Finally, and most important in the preparation process, you must identify your bottom line position—a position beyond which you are not prepared to go.


the power of positioning

Positioning is about communicating your position in a way that will make it attractive as possible for the other side to do the deal with you. For example, if the other side's longer-term goals is to expand into international markets and you have a significant presence in international markets, be sure to position yourself as also being able to help them reach their international goal.

Again, to accomplish this effectively, you must prepare thoroughly. You must always look at the proposed deal through the eyes of those with whom you are negotiating. Without doing so, you have no way of knowing how to position yourself in the negotiation.

This process has another particularly important result: By focusing on the deal through the eyes of the other side, you might better understand the importance of some feature of your own business that you may otherwise have taken for granted. In my example, while your negotiations might initially appear to have nothing to do with international markets, by positioning yourself as being able to help them in this area, you will certainly become more attractive to them—and particularly to those senior executives who are pushing for a greater international presence...


the power of dignity, congeniality and humor

People like doing business with people they like—people who are congenial and dignified. If you display these qualities, the door will always be open for future deals even if the present negotiations break down.

The other side of the coin is that if you gain a reputation for being undignified and not being liked, who would want to try to do business with you again? So look after that reputation...

Incidentally, being congenial is not a sign of being a push-over. The toughest negotiators I've encountered over the years in many different countries have been quite congenial. They each have understood, however, the difference between being assertive and being aggressive. Being assertive is to stake out a position while maintaining respect for the other side's position. Being aggressive is when you stake out a position without regard to the other side's interests.

Finally, don't underestimate the role and importance of humor — particularly when your humor is self-deprecating. It is a great tension-breaker that can always be used to great effect.


the power of truth and greed

There is great power in telling the truth...

The first problem about not telling the truth is that you must remember what you've said. You will need have an incredible memory to keep track of the lies you've conjured up.

The second problem is significant: If you get caught in even a small lie, this will cast a cloud on everything else you say and do even though everything else you say might be the absolute truth.

Greed can have an enormous positive and negative effect on negotiations. Don't underestimate its importance.

On the negative front, greed can cloud judgment. It can undermine and ultimately destroy common sense. Greed can make people unreasonable resulting in them focusing only on what they personally will receive. It can clearly undermine any negotiation. The question: "How much is enough?" is one you should always ask both of yourself and of the other side.

On the positive front, greedy people will agree to anything if there is enough in it for them. But use this power wisely because it can backfire when their expectations are not met.



the power of common sense

One cannot underestimate the importance of common sense in the negotiating process. In large part, common sense is about trusting yourself and your instincts and avoiding some common pitfalls.

In the world of the scam, for example, common sense is the scammer's kryptonite. Scammers have to do whatever they can to avoid you exercising common sense. The more time they give you to exercise common sense, the less likely they'll be to you their scam. So, for scammers, the need for speed is paramount.

To flush out some general principles that guide applying common sense to scams and other negotiations—and the obstacles we face in applying common sense, I created the Duck School. The principles of the Duck School and the obstacles we face are set out above under "The Duck School" tab. I also have a blog on the subject.



the power of listening and seeing

The power of listening and seeing are difficult and nuanced powers to exercise, but they are critical in the negotiation process.

The greatest problem we face is that we often have to listen for what is not said and see what is not there. We then have to assess the relevance of what we haven't heard or seen—and try to understand if there is an innocent explanation for the omission.

And if this was not difficult enough, the manner in which people express themselves or present themselves is also potentially critically relevant in interpreting what they are saying or doing.

There is now a science that has evolved over the years that professional interrogators and the best negotiators have mastered. This involves identifying "tells" in physical and verbal behavior that point to lying and discomfort.



the power of attitude, courage and morality

The attitude of your own negotiating team and that of those with whom you are negotiating will determine the outcome of the negotiations.

Remember that a negotiation is a window. Look through it and you will see what it will be like to do business together once the agreement is signed, sealed and delivered.

People will respond well to you if your attitude and approach is positive, constructive and collaborative. The opposite is also true, although some lawyers believe that you can achieve more by being belligerent and hostile. These are the bullies who, in my experience, get nowhere against skilled negotiators.

Courage is another important quality that is in short supply and that is often difficult to display. What you can take to the bank is this, however: At some stage in the negotiations, you will have to summon the courage to stand up to those who attempt to bully or browbeat you. And like a good attitude, displaying courage to stand up for what you believe in will be respected.

Finally, the display of morality and ethics is critically important. Ethics has been described as knowing the difference between what you have the right to do and what the right thing is to do. People prefer dealing with those who have strong sense of what is ethical and what is not.



the power of patience

Patience might be the most difficult Power of all to exercise.

Think of patience in the context of driving a car. Think about when you decide to accelerate and when you decide to slow down. Almost always, you can accelerate when the road ahead is clear or where there is a real emergency. Almost always, you have to slow down when the traffic is slow and danger looms.

Negotiating is no different to driving. Whatever you do, however, you must stay in control of either your car or your negotiating process. Just as going very fast can be dangerous, so too can going too slowly. It is a judgment call...

One problem about being impatient and rushing is that it becomes tempting to shortcut the process and to start negotiating against yourself. You might find yourself offering concessions before they have even been sought. And once you start on this path, the other side will delay as much as they can see what else they can extract from you.

A red flag: When the other side demands speedy decisions, be careful. The need for speed is one of the hallmarks of a scam or a weak position. Scammers—and those who are working from positions of weakness—can't afford to allow you the time to consider carefully what they are selling.

The best negotiators all understand the striking power of patience. Again, be careful. While it often projects a sign of strength and security, it must also be balanced against the Tenth Power, the Power to walk away.



the power to walk away

The most important Power of all...

Unless and until the other side believes that you will walk away from the negotiation, they will continue to make demands of you. And when the time comes, you must actually walk-the-walk. You must walk away.

Over the years, my clients and I have always been acutely aware that some of the best deals we ever did were the deals we didn't do. Think about th


This is a short brochure on a speaking program on The Ten Powers of Negotiation.