Wednesday, July 12, 2017


When confronted with apparent dishonesty, we feel betrayed, angry, anxious and disappointed. We are also confused as to whether we should confront it or ignore it, or how to confront it if we need to. If we ignore it, we are at risk of allowing it to continue, and if we confront it we risk the relationship - hence the conundrum or the "Dishonesty Dilemma".

A dilemma by definition does not allow for elimination of risks and dangers, and the best we can do is to mitigate the risks while curtailing potential damage and harm.

Although there is not one answer for all situations, in this column we offer guidelines to apply and a thought process to work through to ensure an effective and constructive response.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017


With our allies today feeling less sure of our support, U.S. foreign policy is faced with a credibility issue among our alliance partners. Other countries may be less inclined to trust our promises, commitments and pledges and therefore less likely to enter into trade agreements, nuclear anti-proliferation deals and defense treaties with us.

I was recently watching a rerun of Firing Line from circa 1970 in which William F. Buckley Jr. was debating (a very young) John Kerry as to whether or not the U.S. should cut their losses and pull out of Vietnam unconditionally.

Buckley argued that if the United States were to proceed along that course of action, it would send a negative message to our SEATO (South East Asian Treaty Organization) partners that we cannot be relied upon and trusted. Kerry argued (not very compellingly in the opinion of this author) that although the negative message issue was a general concern, it did not apply in the case of Vietnam.

In listening to the debate, I found it astonishing that both Buckley and Kerry failed to suggest the obvious solution to this dilemma. Let us consult with our SEATO partners (or at the least inform them), before making the decision. Consultation means that I inform my relationship partners about decisions that may affect them, that I solicit their thoughts and concerns and listen to them.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017


It is possible that after a good-faith attempt to engage another party in negotiation and problem solving, no progress is made. They may be insistent and demanding or unreasonable and uncompromising. They may just be unwilling to work jointly towards a solution or trying selfishly to impose their demands. In this situation, many of us avoid saying "no" even though we should. We become anxious about how the other may take it, and the defensiveness and anger that it may arouse. We may deal with this by avoiding the issue altogether and leaving the other party confused about where we stand. Or, even worse, we may say "yes" when what we really mean is "no".

Never concede to anything which is unacceptable just because of a fear of being assertive and saying "no". John F. Kennedy's famous statement: "Don't fear to negotiate but don't negotiate out of fear" is a good rule to remember in this situation.

Knowing how to say "no" constructively and positively is a skill that we all need in order to manage our relationships with authenticity and effectiveness. In this column, we provide a three-step formula for saying no while taking the negativity out of the "no!" and without even uttering the word.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017


A strategic question that is often asked when it comes to negotiation is: should you make the first offer or wait for the other party to put their offer on the table first?

I have heard different opinions from various negotiation theorists. There are those who suggest that it is better to wait for the other party to put forward their offer first. This, they argue, will give you a sense of where the lower end of their zone of possible agreement may lie and from which you can then work upwards if you are selling, (and the reverse if you are buying).

These theorists also suggest that the "appropriate" response to their offer should be an obvious and highly exaggerated flinch, thereby clearly indicating how "crazy" they are for even considering such an "unreasonable" offer. The hope is that the all-powerful flinch will immediately shift them away from their initial position and closer to where you want to them to be.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017


On occasion, as part of a client engagement, we might do an "audit" where we will observe our clients as they conduct a live negotiation. During these sessions, we are always struck by the same thing. This "thing" grates on our ears like a beautiful piece of opera sung atrociously off key. It assaults our senses mercilessly. It turns an elegant waltz into a grotesque and awkward stomp. What is this "thing" you ask? It is excessive, relentless, redundant, purposeless and aimless talking.

Often, negotiators perceive the negotiation process as being to persistently assert their demands, declare their positions and impose their proposals without any consideration of the other side's concerns or needs. They think that the more insistent they become the better negotiators they are. They believe that the only way to "win" is to continuously and repetitively state their positions without allowing their opponent to get a word in edge-wise. Oddly, they don't seem to realize that they are engaged in a terribly inefficient and unproductive process at best and a downright destructive one at worst.