Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Learning to Negotiate

Some people are born negotiators. My friend and mentor, the late Tim Marshall, was the best negotiator I ever met. He loved every minute of it and had both charm and patience to carry it off. We were in Beijing in the 90s when he decided to go to the area of the city that had antique shops to look for opium pipes and cricket cages which he collected. He soon found what he wanted in a tiny shop and the young woman who spoke good English gave him a price. It was insanely high. That was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. I got bored and left but in an hour and a half Tim owned the antiques for the price he wanted to pay and a friend for life.

I am not a negotiator. If I consider a price reasonable and fair to both sides, I will take it. If not I will walk away. Whether I am buying or selling, the first offer is the final offer. Obviously this does not get one far in the real world, so I was sent to a Public Service Commission course on negotiation many years ago. All I remember is that one needed to get to win-win.

We had several chances to practice with set piece situations. The one that sticks in my mind went like this. Each person was given a piece of paper outlining the situation. We were paired with the person sitting beside us. A rare plant had been discovered in the high Andes with properties that indicated it could complete your companies quest for a cure for Alzheimer's. The company needs the ashes from burning 1 kg. You are flying to Lima to buy the only kg in existence. On the plane you are seated next to someone who turns out to be a competitor for the plant. Their company needs it to complete a cure for Lou Gehrig's Disease.  How do you negotiate with this person since there is only 1 kg available?

The person you are paired with has the same instructions BUT their company needs the smoke from burning the 1 kg of rare plant. Once you negotiate enough to find out that the needs are compatible, problem solved.

One of the participants in the course, sitting several seats down from me was a very attractive young woman in her late 20s who worked in PR for one of the Crowns, possibly SaskTel. When the instructor gave the signal to start negotiating, she smiled sweetly at her partner and began unbuttoning her blouse.

That pretty much destroyed the rest of the class.


  1. Well, I guess there are many ways to get to a "win-win"... ;-)

  2. That puts a whole new meaning to "negotiation"!
    I don't think I would be a very good negotiator.... either way!

  3. Diane and Shammickite, I guess whatever works with whatever talents you have.
    Jackiesue, I am glad of that because so often your blog makes my day.

  4. As I get older I am less inclined to negotiate. I don't have the patients to dicker with con men and fools. Age makes you, or at least me, more self absorbed.
    the Ol'Buzzard

  5. Ol'Buzzard, I hear you. Life is too short


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