Negotiation is Not Much Different From a Muscle: An Excerpt from ‘For the Forces of Good’

mediate.com is excited to share a sneak peek at the already best-selling book by attorney, veteran mediator and internationally renowned negotiation lecturer, Lucia Kanter St. Amour. Her book early released on 9/17/22 and shot to #1 New Release Status on Amazon within 3 days. For the Forces of Good: The Superpower of Everyday Negotiation  also introduces everyday readers to mediation (with references to our very own Jim Melamed and Colin Rule) and is a companion to her podcast. The following is excerpted from the book’s preface, with links below to the book and podcast. 

Lucia has agreed to extend the promotional 99 cent price of the ebook edition until 9/30 so that mediate.com newsletter readers can take advantage of the special price. Paperback edition also available now, with hardcover edition to be restocked on 10/1. Audiobook is in progress and will follow in the coming months.

(More Details about the book which speaks of the ‘The Superpower of Everyday Negotiation’ may be found in the endnote.)

On a scorching summer day in 1981, when I was a ten-year-old girl in the small Illinois town (population four thousand) where I grew up, we had a garage sale. I decided to sell the play kitchen that I had outgrown and priced it at twenty dollars. On the weekend of the sale, my brother and I set up a lemonade stand where we refreshed bargain-hunters with Dixie cups of lemonade for twenty-five cents. A family came by with two young girls. I watched the girls’ eyes light up when they spotted my play kitchen with cobalt blue sliding doors, bright yellow “fixtures,” and cornflower blue and white plastic dishes. The father approached my parents and asked if the price was negotiable.

“You’ll have to ask our daughter. The kitchen is hers,” they said, gesturing to me at my lemonade table. The family walked toward me, and before the father could ask me about price, I preempted him with, “Would you like some lemonade?” He purchased four cups. That was one dollar I could knock off the price of my play kitchen, I calculated. He asked if I had any flexibility on price, and I replied, “What did you have in mind?” I glimpsed my own father out of the corner of my eye break into a smile. The father of the covetous girls offered me fifteen dollars, and I said OK. His girls were elated, and that made me feel pretty good.

Afterward, my parents praised me for my cunning negotiating skills. I had no idea what they were talking about. What had I done that was so special? I was just being myself and following my instincts. “Actually,” my mother insisted, “what you did was pretty savvy.”

Growing up in the 1970s and ’80s in the Midwest, cruising on my trusty orange Schwinn bicycle tricked out with the glitter seat and fluttering ribbons I’d fixed to the handlebars, I pedaled freely in my well-worn Keds sneakers (sans helmet) to ballet and piano lessons, to Little League softball and the bookmobile. “Negotiation” was the sober and complicated undertaking of businessmen. It did not enter my mind. Had my fifty-year-old self traveled back to visit tween me, forecasting my fate as an attorney and an “expert” in negotiation who would lecture internationally on the subject, I would have thought that bionic future super-me sporting the chic suede knee-high boots was, in the vernacular of the day, “smoking dope.”

In February 2022, when I launched my podcast, Forces of Good: The Superpower of Everyday Negotiation, I reminisced about the ten years that I taught negotiation at the University of California law schools at Hastings and Berkeley from 2003 to 2013, and a startling epiphany struck me: Over the course of that decade, every single assigned text for my students was authored by . . . a man. It was all excellent content, certainly. I didn’t assign my students any bilge. But where were the women, trans, nonbinary negotiation experts and authors? Certainly, it is not just men who have authored books and articles on negotiation and who teach the topic brilliantly. But the numbers pale in comparison to cisgender men.

It was my dad, who had turned seventy-five in 2022, who suggested a harebrained idea: “You have so much content and experience. You are so passionate and competent about the subject. You should write a book.”

Cue eye-roll. Oh please, Dad! That’s just what the world needs. Another negotiation book. People don’t even read anymore—they scroll social media posts. Besides, we already have too much “noise” in the blogosphere. I don’t need to add to it.

I wonder if that’s what other women said . . .

So here I am. As with my podcast, my goal is to help anyone become a better, more confident everyday negotiator. Because guess what? Turns out, negotiation is for everyone, everywhere, every day.

This book will cover a lot of ground, including nuts and bolts building blocks and exercises to strengthen your everyday negotiation muscles, and broader perspectives about human psychology, behavioral economics, brief historical perspectives, and social trends and their influence on your everyday negotiations. I’ll discuss listening, planning, questioning, power and leverage, mental maps and traps, perspective-shifting, storytelling, imagination, choice theory, brain science, bullies, and free speech—we’ll even talk about chocolate.

Well, now I’ve got your attention.

Think of it as your everyday superpower negotiation handbook. I will share many of the lessons and insights I’ve learned and taught in my twenty-five-plus years as an attorney and law professor teaching negotiation in the United States and abroad. But you don’t need to be an attorney to negotiate. You don’t need an MBA. You don’t need to be a C-suite executive or a trained hostage negotiator negotiating life-or-death scenarios. I wasn’t. I was that ten-year-old kid with a lemonade stand and a gently used pretend kitchen.

Negotiation is not much different from a muscle. The more you practice it, the more you exercise it, the stronger and more agile it develops as a natural everyday skill. Even superheroes undergo training and practice. Consider me your personal trainer and sidekick. If something doesn’t resonate with you, you are free to reject it. But why not try it out first? You never know what might stick. Everyday negotiation is also an art; the inclusion of original art throughout the book isn’t just fun eye candy, but a reminder of that ineffable aspect.

Finally, as asserted by the title, negotiation is a sort of superpower. The myth is that it’s a superpower that you’re either endowed with or you’re not. The good news is that this couldn’t be further from the truth: No need to be bitten by a radioactive spider in a research lab or spend your childhood on a remote and invisible island engaged in elite training. Negotiation is a superpower that anyone can harness—and to be used only for the Forces of Good.

Click here for Lucia’s podcast

Click here for Lucia’s book


author

Lucia Kanter St. Amour

A member of the Neuroleadership Institute, Lucia has specific training in behavioral science, and how real people act in real conflict situations and decision-making. She is the Founder and Principal of her firm, Pactum Factum, which specializes in negotiation and dispute resolution; and a mediate.com Certified Online Mediator. Lucia has… MORE

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