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Effective Negotiation

by Phyllis Pollack
July 2009

From the Blog of Phyllis G. Pollack.

Phyllis  Pollack

       On several occasions, I have discussed the importance of preparing for a mediation. I have noted that if a party comes to mediation with the idea of “winging it” or simply “going with the flow,” chances are, a resolution of the dispute will not be reached. Rather, the parties will leave frustrated and wondering why the matter did not settle.

       In her monthly column entitled “One Minute Negotiation Tips,” posted on the Los Angeles County Bar Association’s website (Vol. II, July 2009), Linda Bulmash approaches this issue by noting how Dennis Ross, one of the best negotiators in the world, approaches this task.

       As many of you are aware, Mr. Ross served as the Middle East envoy and chief peace negotiator in both the Bush senior and Clinton administrations. In his book, Statecraft – How to Restore America’s standing in the World (Farrar, Straw & Girout 2008), Mr. Ross provides 12 steps for effective negotiation. As you might expect, many of them involve preparation, or doing your homework beforehand. They are:

      1. “Know what you want and what you can live with.
      2. Know everything there is to know about the decision makers on the other side.
      3. Build a relationship of trust with the key decision makers.
      4. Keep in mind the other side’s need for an explanation.
      5. To gain the hardest concessions, prove you understand what is important to the other side.
      6. Tough love is also required: understanding and empathy is good but only goes so far—make sure they understand also there are consequences.
      7. Employ the ‘good-cop, bad-cop’ approach carefully.
      8. Understand the value and limitations of deadlines.
      9. Take only calculated risks.
    10. Never lie, never bluff—you risk too much damage to your credibility.
    11. Don’t avoid differences: get differences in the open and discussed to eliminate future hard feelings over the resolution.
    12. Summarize agreements at the end of every meeting.”

      Take a moment and reflect on each of these steps, and how you can incorporate them into your mediation advocacy. If they have helped Mr. Ross in negotiating peace in the middle east, just think what these steps can do to help you in resolving your disputes.

       . . .Just something to think about.    


Phyllis Pollack with PGP Mediation uses a facilitative, interest-based approach. Her preferred mediation style is facilitative in the belief that the best and most durable resolutions are those achieved by the parties themselves. The parties generally know the business issues and priorities, personalities and obstacles to a successful resolution as well as their own needs better than any mediator or arbitrator. She does not impose her views or make decisions for the parties. Rather, Phyllis assists the parties in creating options that meet the needs and desires of both sides.  When appropriate, visual aids are used in preparing discussions and illustrating possible solutions. On the other hand, she is not averse to being proactive and offering a generous dose of reality, particularly when the process may have stalled due to unrealistic expectations of attorney or client, a failure to focus on needs rather than demands, or when one or more parties need to be reminded of the potential consequences of their failure to reach an agreement.

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