Bargaining with the Devil: When to Negotiate, When to Fight (Anglais) Relié – 9 février 2010
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In private disputes you too may face such adversaries: a business partner who has cheated you, a sibling grabbing part of your inheritance, a greedy divorcing spouse.
Across a wide range of difficult conflicts, Mnookin explains how to make wise decisions. He identifies the traps to avoid—emotional, strategic, and political—and the elements that are critical for success.
Mnookin’s real life case studies cover a remarkable range. Some involve political leaders: Churchill’s refusal in 1940 to negotiate with Hitler; Nelson Mandela’s choice to initiate negotiations with the government of South Africa. Others involve individuals facing evil regimes: the Soviet KGB or Hitler’s SS. Half the cases involve business or family disputes where Mnookin played an active role. In all of them, emotions ran high and demonization ran rampant: two giant computer companies fighting over software rights, the San Francisco Symphony torn by strike, a CEO who feels betrayed by a joint venture partner, and some family disputes that reached crisis points.
In this lively, informative, practical book, Robert Mnookin provides the reader with the tools we need to bargain with the devils in everyday life as well as evaluate the decisions of our national leaders.
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For examples of negotiating with "evil," Mnookin divides the book into "global devils," "business devils," and "family devils." In the section on global devils, Mnookin explains why he thinks Rudolf Kasztner was right to negotiate with Adolf Eichmann, why Winston Churchill was right not to negotiate with Hitler, and why Nelson Mandela was right to negotiate with the apartheid regime in South Africa. In the other two sections, Mnookin draws on his experience as a mediator and relates more difficult but successful mediations involving IBM v. Fujitsu, the San Francisco symphony, and family law disputes.
While Mnookin's political examples are well-researched and interesting in revealing the details of the decision-making process of the various actors, and while his examples of difficult business and domestic mediations exhibit him as an adept and successful mediator, conspicuously lacking from the book are developed or detailed theories or principles of negotiation that weave the examples together. As a result, the book seems forced and fails to come together as a whole.
Praiseworthy for its ambitious topic and call for conflict resolution, Bargaining with the Devil remains worth reading. But the book's lesson also remains simple: Don't demonize your opponent or overly-moralize your own position or you may end up worse off.
If you're looking for a detailed book on theories and strategies of negotiation, you should look elsewhere, like to Mnookin's own Beyond Winning or Fisher's Getting to Yes.
Bracamontes & Vlasak, P.C.
Decisions to negotiate are everywhere. The book does more than just describe other people's negotiation decisions - Mnookin provides a great framework to approach negotiation in general, taking you through each step and cautioning the reader against falling into common traps such as demonization and moralism. He introduces the fantastic "Spock" character to help conceptualize the "rational" decisionmaker, and yet he does not advocate that this type of analysis is always best; Mnookin fully understands the nuances of human emotion and identity, as is evident in his storytelling and perceptive analysis. He never pretends that any negotiation is ever easy. In sum, the book is a fantastic read. I would recommend it to anyone.
I expected a combination of philosophical treatise, a la Book of Job or Faustus, and negotiation handbook. Mnookin didn't disappoint on either front, although that's not ultimately what the book's about. It does raise, and sometimes answer, fascinating questions of moral and political philosophy, exploring whether negotiation ever degenerates into "pandering to evil" and the conflicting obligations of a leader to his constituents and his conscience (think Profiles in Courage). And while not a how-to negotiation guide, it provides a fascinating window into the work of a master negotiator, chronicling some of the author's most impressive interventions.
Bargaining with the Devil also has a bit of a self-help flavor to it, laying out the many intellectual and psychological traps that thwart many of our efforts to negotiate thorny situations at work and in our private lives.
Above all though, its a book of stories, some historical and some intensely private. Because most of the chapters are self-contained tales of individuals who faced agonizing decisions of whether or not to negotiate with perceived devils, it's easy to pick this book up for an hour or so on a flight, by the pool or before bed -- and very hard to put it down!
Whether facing events that could change the world or events that could take place in your living room (or lawyer's office), Mnookin presents a workable framework for addressing the pivotal questions we should consider when we're faced with an adversary who might be evil, or might even be the devil him/herself.
At various times reading this book I found myself cheering Winston Churchill's flat refusal to negotiate with Hitler and then agreeing just as strongly with Rudolph Kastner's willingness to bargain with the same nazis in order to save Jewish lives during the Holocaust. What becomes obvious is that the question of whether to bargain with a devil, be it in the form of an evil dictator or a soon-to-be ex-spouse, depends a lot on the circumstances at hand and the interests of the parties involved. By co-opting Mr. Spock as a negotiation consultant, Mnookin presents a very clear, very workable approach to any potential negotiation with a party you might consider evil (and what IS evil, anyway?), and provides valuable keys/advice for determining whether a compromise should be made or the fight should be joined. The limits of Spock's rational approach are explored, and the un-Spockian, human elements of pride/face/honor are considered as a vital piece of the calculus.
Mnookin doesn't come to any hard and fast conclusions in this easy to read and digest how-to guide, but he definitely shows you the way. Highly recommended for anyone who has ever, or will ever, face a devil across the table.
In that regard, Prof. Mnookin is very American. He does abide with what should be the first commandment of every speaker and writer: Do not bore!
Several years ago, I had thoroughly enjoyed reading Bob Mnookin's Beyond Winning. His theory about the existence and the management of the three tensions present in most negotiations has become a classic.
Well, here he goes again with his brand new book: a great mix of History, stories, anecdotes,general and mostly practical ethics, negotiation and mediation advice and techniques from an undisputed master in the field.
His "Dr. Spock" character as the cold, rational analyst of situations and options is extraordinary!
Except for those who are never confronted with evil people and/or difficult negotiation decisions, an absolute must.
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