The Negotiator Magazine

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"I have never negotiated at a table I believed to be even," Dr. Kritek writes. (p. 54). Reflecting more broadly, she concludes that "all negotiating tables are uneven to some degree" (p. 168). We have all been at such tables, but if all tables are uneven, we need to recognize that fact and understand their consequences in negotiating conflict resolutions and on agreements in other types of negotiations. Why? Dr. Kritek carefully leads the reader through the reasons and postulates the solutions. It is solid stuff.

Uneven tables exist, the author states, because individuals have vested interests in creating them as a means of sustaining their own positions. By assembling the participants and controlling the agenda, those with power seek first to preserve it by assuring that the resolution of a conflict does not threaten the existing order they represent. It is not this perception that is new, but what follows that is groundbreaking and critically important.

Dr. Kritek points out that the concept of dominance of power has been over-emphasized and "seems to pervade analyses of conflict and conflict resolution" (p. 17). The consequence of this bias is a misunderstanding of the varied forces at work in conflicts and therefore the creation of a "mental trap" that misses the opportunities to resolve conflicts and disregards the power of the disadvantaged to operate as "moral agents." This is the subject of the rest of her book.

Those who perceive themselves as disadvantaged participants at an "uneven table," generally operate from assumptions that frustrate their own goals and result in losing the opportunities presented by the negotiation process itself. One of those assumptions is that getting to the table is a triumph. "Getting to the table," Dr. Kitek points out, "assures nothing at all" (p. 26).

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