The Negotiator Magazine

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Setting The Climate For A Non-Confrontational Negotiation

Roger Dawson

What you say in the first few moments of a negotiation often sets the climate of the negotiation. The other person quickly gets a feel for whether you are working for a win-win solution, or whether you're a tough negotiator who's out for everything they can get.

That's one problem that I have with the way that attorneys negotiate-they're very confrontational negotiators. You get that white envelope in the mail with black, raised lettering in the top left hand corner and you think, "Oh, no! What is it this time?" You open the letter and what's the first communication from them? It's a threat. What they're going to do to you, if you don't give them what they want.

I remember conducting a seminar for 50 attorneys who litigated medical malpractice lawsuits, or as they prefer to call them, physician liability lawsuits. I've never met an attorney who was eager to go to a negotiating seminar, although that's what they do for a living, and these people were no exception to the rule. However, the organization that was giving the attorneys their business told them that they were expected to attend my seminar if they wanted to get any more cases from the organization. So the attorneys weren't too happy about having to spend Saturday with me in the first place, but once we got started, they became involved and were having a good time. I got them absorbed in a workshop involving a surgeon being sued over an unfortunate incident involving a nun and walked around the room to see how they were doing. I couldn't believe how confrontational they were being. Most of them started with a vicious threat and then became more abusive from that point on. I had to stop the exercise and tell them that if they wanted to settle the case without expensive litigation (and I doubted their motives on that score) that they should never be confrontational in the early stages of the negotiation.

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