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<xTITLE>When Not to Negotiate</xTITLE>

When Not to Negotiate

by F. Peter Phillips
May 2011

From the Business Conflict Blog of Peter Phillips.

F. Peter  Phillips

As recently as a few weeks ago this blog noted the distinction between public and private negotiation. Nevertheless, the current debate concerning raising the public debt “ceiling” seems to present a stark lesson on when to negotiate and when not to.

Readers will recall that the federal government can neither spend nor borrow money without congressional authorization. Congress has authorized expenditures in excess of revenues, but there is a (putatively) serious debate about whether to authorize further borrowings to pay for those authorized expenditures. Failure to do so would constitute a default on the nation’s debt — an eventuality that is broadly viewed as imprudent.
This situation might serve as the basis for a hypothetical in negotiation class, and feedback would be welcome on whether the following analysis is the correct one:
1. A guy comes up to you, draws a gun, holds it to your temple, and tells you to sign this or he’ll blow your head off. RESULT: Negotiate
2. A guy comes up to you, draws a gun, holds it to his own temple, and tells you to sign this or he’ll blow his own head off. RESULT: Don’t negotiate.
3. A guy comes up to you, holds up a sinister-looking box, and tells you to sign this or he’ll kill you, and himself, and his kids, and your kids, and the market value of his house, and the exchange rate of the dollar, and the global financial system, and interest rates, and economic recovery. RESULT: ???
Well, you call his bluff, don’t you?


F. Peter Phillips is a commercial arbitrator and mediator with substantial experience providing consultation on the management of business disputes to companies around the globe.

A cum laude graduate of Dartmouth College and a magna cum laude graduate of New York Law School, Mr. Phillips served for nearly ten years as Senior Vice President of the International Institute for Conflict Prevention and Resolution (CPR Institute). During that time, he earned a reputation as an author, teacher, industry liaison, and systems designer for the avoidance, management and resolution of complex and sophisticated business conflicts.

In 2008, Mr. Phillips formed Business Conflict Management LLC (BCM) in order to offer his direct services as a neutral and a consultant. Through BCM, Mr. Phillips also continues his career as a highly sought-after public speaker, facilitator and instructor.

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