This article is taken from the Martin E. Latz Negotiation Column, April 2016. Martin Latz recently talked with former U.S. Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and former West Virginia Governor and current U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV). Latz asked them to share their negotiation lessons from politics. Here they are, with Latz’s insights sprinkled in and a few comments from me.
Former Sen. Jon Kyle (R-AZ)
- Get “good intel” and develop a plan in advance. You need information to start. (This is aligned with Latz’s first Golden Rule of Negotiation–Information is Power–So Get It! A big part of this strategic planning, which partially involves getting intelligence about what strategies your counterparts have used in the past.) Mike’s comment: Preparation is important.
- You need to “get trust with the other side.”
- Find out your counterpart’s hot buttons and what drives them.
- Do what works best for you, but it usually “doesn’t pay to be a jerk.”
- Be wary of those always asking for “one more thing.” If they do, say no. (Latz calls these “nibblers” in the negotiation world-and recommends either walking away, as Sen. Kyl recommends, or reopening the negotiation and putting a previously agreed upon issue back on the table. Otherwise they will keep on nibbling.)
- “Everyone needs something out of it [the negotiation].”
- “Take what you can” and don’t hold out for everything. Or you may get nothing. Sen. Kyl pointed to one of the best negotiators he has ever known-former Sen. Ted Kennedy-as always willing to take something instead of nothing. Kyl said Kennedy would take “30% here, and 80% here-and it would all add up.” (Latz: This is aligned with my second Golden Rule of Negotiation-Maximize Your Leverage. Leverage is fundamentally dependent on what will happen if you walk away. The better your walkaway-or Plan B-the stronger you leverage. And vice versa.)
- It usually doesn’t pay to bluff. Sen. Kyl recalled former Sen. Phil Gramm (R-TX) once tell him, “Never take a hostage if you’re not willing to shoot.”
- Relationships matter. “You have to walk together if you want to get anything done.”
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV)
- “First build the relationships.”
- Trust is crucial. Mike’s comment: a mediator building trust and rapport, & establishing a connection is critical.
- Never put your colleagues in an embarrassing position. They need something out of it too. Mike’s comment: a mediator should never embarrass a lawyer in front of the client.
- “Leave a little meat on the bone for the next dog.” Sen. Manchin recalled his “granddaddy telling me.”
- Agreements shouldn’t be too one-sided. If you drive too hard, the other side might not even be able to perform-and this leads to litigation.
- Beware of personalities [and egos] messing up deals. Sen. Manchin recalled a negotiation between the Teamsters and a company when he was governor and he was asked to help resolve an impasse. He said he immediately recognized that the contested issue-while relatively minor-had become a big problem because of two personalities in the room. Each had become personally vested in winning that issue-and neither would give the other side a win. What did Manchin do? He asked the two individuals at loggerheads to leave the room. The rest of the parties quickly resolved the issue.
Latz’s Lesson: Trust, relationships, planning, preparation, mutual interests, professionalism, & credibility are important negotiation tools.