The First Rule of Negotiation

Posted By on September 25th

mitt romneyWhat is the first rule of negotiation?

Mitt Romney recently addressed a group at the Values Voter Summit. In his speech, Romney criticized President Barack Obama for reducing the United States’ European missile defense policy. Romney discussed two of the reasons Obama’s administration provided for the change in missile defense policy: 1) Iran’s nuclear arms capability is less advanced than previously thought, and 2) Russia would appreciate the gesture and become more of a firm ally against Iran.

In his criticism, Romney said that President Obama violated the first rule of negotiation because he gave something away without getting something in return. Is Romney correct? Is that the “first rule of negotiation”?

First of all, in any negotiation, you have to know who is negotiating with you. The person on the other side of the table needs to be the decision maker. In his comments, Romney doesn’t clarify who he believes the United States was negotiating with: Iran or Russia. Perhaps Romney is saying it doesn’t matter, and neither country is giving the US something in return.

Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher and William Ury is considered by many to the most important book on negotiation. I took a look at the Table of Contents, and nowhere does it suggest the first rule is to only give when you get.

In fact, the book is primarily devoted to the idea that you should not negotiate over positions; rather, you should focus on interests and concerns. Based on his comments, it sounds like Romney would negotiate over positions.

If Iran’s nuclear capabilities are less advanced than previously thought, the US’s interests and concerns are less dire and nothing is being given up in an attempt to secure a stronger relationship with Russia as a potential ally. It appears Romney would stick with an elevated European missile defense policy only for the sake of maintaining a previous position regardless of a change in interests and concerns. (Romney does make a valid point when he questions whether we truly know the level of Iran’s nuclear capabilities).

About the author

Keith Grossman helps individuals and businesses negotiate and manage conflict more comfortably. Keith is a Collaborative Attorney, a Family and Circuit Civil mediator certified by the Supreme Court of Florida, an Arbitrator qualified by the Florida Supreme Court, and an educator. Keith frequently lectures and facilitates training programs, works with individuals one-on-one, and writes articles on conflict management and negotiation topics. His e-workbooks, “What Is A Peace Chest?” and “How Do You Build A Peace Chest?“ are now available on Kindle.

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