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December 2008

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MBC Director’s Memo – 12.12.08

Even though people don’t spend much time thinking about it, everyone negotiates on a daily basis. It may be as complex as bargaining for the best price on a car or a lucrative business deal. More likely, you just want to convince the person with the remote to stop on a favorite show, or get the guy in the next cube to stop whistling.
Negotiation is about exchanging information and value. Sound like a marketing communications problem? The only difference? Your “market” generally consists of a single person. You state your point of view, and the other person state an alternate position. The more persuasive your communication of counter-points and concessions, the more quickly you reach a mutually beneficial outcome.
Assuredly, reaching a compromise can be anything but easy. In really serious negotiations, when both parties are completely aware of what’s going on, it can be a lot like wrestling a bear.
Having actually “wrestled” a 550 lb. Alaskan brown bear some years ago, in hindsight, I learned a lot about the negotiation process. Imagine the tough people you with whom you negotiate are big and furry while reading these examples:
1) More often than not, you are not very well acquainted with the bear.
2) If you’re not the only one competing with the bear, go last, and learn from the mistakes of others.
3) The harder you push against the bear, the less patience it will have with you…
4) Therefore, if the bear thinks you’re dancing, you’ll dance. If it thinks you’re wrestling, it’ll crush you.
5) Keep your eye on the bear’s handlers; they may have more control over the situation than the bear.
6) The longer you keep the bear dancing, the more progress you will make toward your goal.
7) If you can dance long enough, even if the bear puts you down hard, it will just lick your face rather than bite off your head, so you can try again another day.
8) When it’s all over, one of you will walk away smelling more like the other than before things started. Sometimes that’s good for you, other times you just need a really good bar of soap