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Updated: 29 Jul 2017

Negotiating Rationally (book review)

negotiating rationally


A rational approach in how to manage and conduct a negotiation. Provides useful strategies to mitigate irrational tactics.

Level: Beginner to Intermediate
Categories: Business, Academic
Publication Date: 2006-11-29

by Max Bazerman and Margaret Neale

Negotiating Rationally is exactly what the title purports the book to be about. Written in three parts, each section takes the reader through a logical sequence and provides a sound basis in how to rationally approach a negotiation. Whether they are a novice or an experienced negotiator, this book gives the reader a smart starting point in learning the most essential basics of the negotiating process. Employing a multiple of scenarios as a backdrop to serve as everyday workable samples of what we might experience as negotiators, the authors endeavour to emphasise that negotiation is a rational process.

The book could have expanded the area on integrative negotiations more than it did as it was somewhat limited in scope. Likewise, joint ventures and multiparty negotiations could have used more attention as well.

The book is structured around the premise that we don’t want to get just any agreement, we want to get the best possible agreement without surrendering anything essential to our best interests, or leaves us worse off than when we entered the negotiation process. Its about leaving our emotions and human frailties out of the equation and how to engage in logical problem solving.

Section 1, which is titled Common Mistakes in Negotiation, tackles the human error component immediately. The authors point out that we all have our own emotional baggage inherent in all of us. We need to recognise those common mental errors which can catch any of us off guard. Bazerman and Neale provide sign posts to act as valuable red flags to warn us against the inherent dangers in becoming separated from the real purpose of our goals and objectives by learning to recognise common mental errors that any negotiator might be prone to unconsciously make when engaged in a negotiation.

Having tackled our mental errors, Section 2, which is titled A Rational Framework for Negotiation, takes us into the meat of how to be rational in our negotiations. One starts off by adopting the right way to think and to always be on guard not just against our own irrational thinking but also by our opposite number. We begin by preparing properly to smartly assess both ourselves and our opponents. We need to base our strategy by gathering information to intelligently analyse our opponents in relation to our positions and interests.

The mistakes we could potentially make are broken down by considering a detailed case study. Bazerman and Neale use this case study analysis to apply their principles to an actual situation to lend importance to a rational approach in negotiating an integrative joint venture between two companies. The case study example lucidly illustrates how the process works in an applied situation.

Next, we are provided a detailed description on how to create rational strategies which deal with integrative agreements. They describe how to accumulate relevant information that is essential for decision making such as how to determine trade offs, and using your differences to create mutually beneficial proposals. It is a means to think creatively that allows the parties to gradually come to a deal.

The final section, Part 3, illustrates how we may simplify complex negotiations. One means describes how to use our own or the expertise of an outside party to re-process information in a different manner; how to relate and deal with the concept of fairness and the impact that emotions bring to the negotiation process; how to successfully negotiate within the framework of groups and organisations; utilising third parties and both the advantages and disadvantages that each might incur; the process of making a successful bid and handling the winners curse; and finally, how to negotiate through action.

Clearly, our world can be very irrational when fed by emotions and ego. Bazerman and Neale show us the means in how to deal with our own irrationality and the irrationality of others. They also provide useful strategies to mitigate the impact of irrational thinking while learning how to apply rational thinking in all our negotiations. This book is very useful guide for both the novice and experienced negotiator.

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