If….Then beginnings

At Negotiate we link our analysis of the most effective negotiation process epitomised by the conditonal proposition: “IF You give me this that I want, THEN I shall give you that which you want”.

This conditional proposition was introduced from the very start of the building our negotiation courses way back in 1972.  At that time there were no ‘How to do it’ books on the negotiation process – ten years later there were dozens. Our approach was original and based on the practices we observed real-world working negotiators conducting their negotiations themselves to get what they wanted from those who wanted something from them.

We identified what worked and what didn’t. We summed  what worked in negotiation as an 8-step process: Prepare, Argue, Signal, Propose, Package, Bargain, Close, Agree. In time we reduced the Eight steps to Four Phases: Prepare, Debate, Propose, Bargain.

Critically, we identified that the most powerful form for making proposals and bargaining to an effective resolution was in the assertive conditional format of: ‘IF-YOU’. This enables negotiators to make proposals without fear of a slide to a collapse in resolve and weak, one-sided agreements that benefit only one party.

Now, years later, looking back to the beginning of Negotiate Ltd, we had identified by practical experience the only lasting way to successful negotiation. However, years later, we discovered that the credit for discovering the power of the conditional proposition in bargaining actually belongs to someone else, who wrote about the negotiation process exactly 196 years before we ran our first negotiation workshop in 1972 . I kidd you not!

He wrote:

“Man has has almost constant occasion for the help of his brethren, and it is in vain for him to expect it from from their benevolence only.  He will be more likely to prevail if he can interest their self-love in his favour, and show them that it is for their own advantage to do for him what he requires of them. Whoever offers to another a bargain of any kind, proposes to do this. Give me that which I want, and you shall have this which you want, is the meaning of every such offer; and it is in this manner that we obtain from one another the far greater part of those good offices which we stand in need of.”

Spot on! The author of the paragraph above was a modest moral philospher from Kirkcaldy, in Fife, Scotland. You have probabaly heard of him: Adam Smith…

Gavin Kennedy