Negotiate This! By Caring, But Not T-H-A-T Much

Herb Cohen

Have you ever read a book only to find yourself wishing you had read it earlier? That was my experience reading Herb Cohen's Negotiate This! By Caring, But Not T-H-A-T Much. Filled with sound advice and fascinating examples from Herb's extensive negotiating experience, the book makes for interesting (and amusing) reading. Add to that the fact you can learn a thing or two, and you'll know why I wish I had read this book a long time ago.

The book outlines step by step all the keys to a successful negotiation from achieving the proper frame of mind to the importance of preparation to overcoming seeming impasses and stalemates.  The use of real life examples from a broad cross-section (buying cars and houses, negotiating the release of hostages, raising children) makes it easy to see how you might incorporate these skills into whatever level of negotiations you encounter in life.

Herb Cohen's negotiating experience is extremely vast and he is quite modest about a number of his achievements. He views negotiations as a 'problem-solving process, where both sides interact to share their preferences, so that mutually beneficial exchanges can be made' and stresses the importance of information gathering and preparation. Some of his advice is quite basic, the type often forgotten or overlooked when under pressure: 'Listen more and talk less' and 'Pose non-threatening questions'.  His common sense approach to starting negotiations with things you have in common is practical for novice negotiator and expert alike. 'During the process, be natural, unaffected, affable, and respectful of the other person's point of view. Engage in active listening, note taking and displays of empathy.' Don't you wish everyone took this approach to life?

Negotiate This! reminds us that viewing negotiations as a game to be mastered provides the mindset necessary to maintaining perspective, the "But Not T-H-A-T Much" referred to in the book's title. The author provides many practical tips for keeping that perspective throughout the negotiation process. One of the more humorous approaches involves a pen: "Unexpectedly, I [Herb Cohen] develop a rapport with the pen that I have in the inside pocket of my jacket. I think about this particular writing instrument that has been by itself for hours…"

At Common Outlook, much of our work is based on an approach to negotiating often referred to as the "Harvard Method"; the subject of the book Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher and William Ury. Like the Harvard Method, Herb Cohen advocates that negotiations need not be adversarial but can be win-win for both sides. Negotiate This! will give you much to think about and, if put into practice, skills that can improve your ability to play the negotiation game.  Well organized, the book is easy to read, easy to follow and, if pressed for time, the last page of each major chapter includes a summary of prominent points. This book is recommended reading.

This book review was written by Helen Latimer.

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