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Hard Bargaining: What’s Machiavelli Got to Do with It?

Former Executive Vice-President and General Counsel to The Walt Disney Company, entertainment law heavy-weight Lou Meisinger knows more about driving a hard bargain than anyone I know.

Yet it is Lou who taught me that the deal you drive too hard is the one that will come back to bite you.


Because you have to leave enough profit in it for your negotiating partner to survive.

Once, Lou says, his company drove so hard a bargain, leaving so little profit to its bargaining partner, that the contract had to be renegotiated, on terms less favorable than originally offered. Had the stronger party been content with the deal that could have kept its negotiation partner healthy, it would not have had to take a worse deal months later based upon the other’s inability to comply with the harsher terms originally imposed.

You not only have to leave them “face,” you also have to leave them with enough money to survive.

You protest that Lou’s wisdom doesn’t apply to a one-time deal. Maybe. But I’m getting older and it’s a small world.  

A fair agreement is a durable agreement.

Hard bargainers love to quote Machiavelli’s The Prince on fear and love, though they forget that Machiavelli cautioned only that it is much safer to be feared than loved, when, of the two, either must be dispensed with.

Most people also forget — or never read — his final words on the subject:

Nevertheless a prince ought to inspire fear in such a way that, if he does not win love, he avoids hatred; because he can endure very well being feared whilst he is not hated, which will always be as long as he abstains from the property of his citizens and subjects and from their women.


Victoria Pynchon

Attorney-mediator Victoria Pynchon is a panelist with ADR Services, Inc. Ms. Pynchon was awarded her LL.M Degree in Dispute Resolution from the Straus Institute in May of 2006, after 25 years of complex commercial litigation practice, with sub-specialties in intellectual property, securities fraud, antitrust, insurance coverage, consumer class actions and all… MORE >

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