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Updated: 11 Apr 2021

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

Negotiation Is a Rational Process

Negotiating Rationally is about exactly what the title says it is. Written in three parts, each section takes the reader through a logical sequence. Together, the parts provide a sound basis in how to rationally approach a negotiation. Whether they’re a first-time novice or an experienced negotiator who’s attended some of the best negotiation courses, this book gives the reader a smart starting point in learning the essentials of negotiating.

Using many scenarios as everyday workable samples of what we might experience as negotiators, the authors work to emphasize that negotiation is a rational process.

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

Emotions Are Enemies of Negotiators

The book is structured around the premise that we don’t want to get just any agreement. Instead, we want to get the best possible agreement. Plus, we want to avoid surrendering anything essential to our best interests, and anything that leaves us worse off than when we entered negotiations. It’s about leaving our emotions out of the equation. It’s also about how to engage in logical problem solving.

Section 1, Common Mistakes in Negotiation, tackles the human error component immediately. The authors point out that we all have our own emotional baggage. We need to recognize those common mental errors that can catch any of us off guard. Bazerman and Neale provide signposts as valuable red flags to warn us against becoming separated from the real purpose of our objectives. Through this, we can learn to recognize common mental errors that any negotiator might be prone to unconsciously making.

Learn from Your Mistakes

Having tackled our mental errors, Section 2, A Rational Framework for Negotiation, takes us into the meat of how to be rational in our negotiations. We start 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. Then, we prepare properly to assess both ourselves and our opponents. We need to base our strategy by gathering information to intelligently analyze 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. This lends importance to taking 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 that deal with integrative agreements. The authors describe how to gather relevant information essential for decision-making such as how to determine trade-offs, and using your differences to create mutually beneficial proposals. It’s a means to think creatively that allows the parties to gradually come to a deal.

Success Is in Rationality

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 way:

  • 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.
  • How to make a successful bid and how to handle the winner’s curse.
  • How to negotiate through action.

Clearly, our world can be very irrational when fed by emotions and ego. Bazerman and Neale show us how to deal with our own irrationality and the irrationality of others. The authors 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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