Author Stuart Diamond shares expert negotiation advice
By Matt Sullivan
Special to Delaware Business Times
After 40 years of bloody guerrilla warfare, the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) prepared to sit down for peace talks. First item on the agenda for the government: Unilateral disarmament of terrorist forces. But negotiations advisor Stuart Diamond had other ideas.
“Lunch! You’re going to do lunch,” Diamond said, recounting his advice. “Lunch first! Weapons later.”
Lunch first. Weapons later. That comes close to summarizing the advice Stuart Diamond, author of “Getting More: How You Can Negotiate to Succeed in Work and Life” and professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, gave to a crowded room of young Delaware professionals on Oct. 29, at an event organized by Leadership Delaware Inc. at the Chase Center on the Riverfront.
Stuart said he encouraged the Colombian government to start talks by doing just that – talking. And in those conversations, they learned that amnesty and protection for their families might be far more important to the guerrillas than their weapons.
“You tend to find out about the real thing if you talk about people first,” Diamond said.
Not every negotiation revolves around a conflict as deadly as Stuart Diamond dealt with in Colombia, but all negotiations – whether between governments over nuclear capabilities, employees over compensation, or parents and children over bath time – follow similar patterns. And there’s another commonality: conflict costs money.
Stuart spent much of his 90-minute presentation debunking practices that revolve around raising the level of conflict in a negotiation, saying that common practices of unilateral deadlines, hording information, and walking away from the table are strategies akin to “40-year-old technology,” and do not achieve better results.
Genuine trust built between the negotiating parties does work, Diamond said, and countries where citizens trust each other tend to have growing economies.
Unfortunately, many surveys suggest that the level of trust Americans have in one another has been falling since the 1960s.
“It’s a great problem for our country,” Diamond said.
Terry Strine, co-founder, chairman and CEO of Leadership Delaware, said that Stuart’s advice aligns well with the mission of his organization, which works to fill the leadership pipeline in Delaware.
“If we all read the book and adopt and adapt what works, we can make Delaware a better place,” Strine said.
Diamond offered several pieces of advice on more effective negotiating: Focus on emotional connections, not just logic. Lower personal expectations, so you don’t take negotiations too personally. And consider the intangibles, the things that matter to people more than money – like the Google employee who saved the company hundreds of millions of dollars in fees in exchange for a letter, on Google letterhead, recommending the vendor.
“Life isn’t about money,” Diamond said. “Money was invented because it got too heavy to carry cows around.”
And if you need good role models, look to children – born negotiators who understand the value of incremental steps, whether negotiating the minutes until bedtime or how many pieces of Halloween candy they can eat in one night. Good negotiators know getting something is better than getting nothing.
“The name of the book is “˜Getting More,'” he said. “Not “˜Getting Everything.'”