Article by veteran contracts expert Lewis-Fernandez demonstrates the kind of thinking that gives negotiation a bad name by Jon Hansen

Posted on March 27, 2015


Point #3 Create a strong foundation by building relationships first: This is probably one of the most important things an individual can do in regards to negotiation and in business in general. Perhaps you have attended the standard “networking” event where you give dozens of cards out without having a real conversation with anyone. It’s time to slow down and start making real connections with people—particularly those you might be involved in a deal with later on. Find out something about them and their lives. Get personal. Much useful information can be gleaned during casual conversation, including what they value in life, what motivates them, what annoys them, their ethics, etc. Find out something about them, personally, and not just their business. You might be surprised how well you can leverage what you learn through a genuine conversation with someone. – from article 7 keys to becoming a master negotiator by Eldonna Lewis-Fernandez

Eldonna Lewis-Fernandez, author of “Think Like a Negotiator,” has over 30 years of experience crafting killer deals both stateside and internationally, many in excess of $100 million reads the author’s bio.  She is according to the text, a “Veteran negotiation and contracts expert.”

With “experts” who write articles such as the one referenced above, it is no wonder why negotiation is viewed as an adversarial process in which there are winners and losers.  It also explains why so many initiatives (or business dealings) continue to fail miserably, in terms of achieving a true collaborative win-win outcome.

However, and I never thought that I would ever say this, in reading the Lewis-Fernandez article I have now found a replacement for the Karrass “you don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate” tagline.  Anyone who has been following this blog or tuning in to my radio show on a regular basis knows that for me, the Karras approach has come to symbolize what IACCM’s Tim Cummuins once referred to as the dishonest dealings between stakeholders at the negotiating table.

There are still many who see the negotiation itself, rather than the outcome it inspires, as the objective. This transactional, commodity-based thinking certainly does not fit well with many of the relationships required by business today. – Tim Cummins IACCM

When I read the Point #3 excerpt from the Lewis-Fernandez article that opened this post, a general uneasiness came over me. One that through the contemplation of her words made me feel almost dirty.  This nebulous sense that something was amiss, came into clear focus in the last line “Find out something about them, personally, and not just their business. You might be surprised how well you can leverage what you learn through a genuine conversation with someone.”

There you have it . . . find out anything and everything about the person across the table so that “you can leverage it.”

manipulation preying on someone

There is no mention about achieving or for that matter even trying to collaborate towards achieving, a mutually beneficial outcome.  Nor is there even a hint that one should look for points of mutual benefit or commonality beyond a self-serving motive.

In short, Lewis-Fernandez exemplifies everything that has been, and continues to be wrong with the traditional mindset of what negotiation really means or should be.

So what is the proper mindset to bring to the negotiation table?

Read Kate Vitasek’s recent article in Forbes Procurement Departments Negotiating ‘Too Aggressively’, or check out Andy Akrouche’s Relational Contracting Intelligence blog, to gain the right perspective on how to approach negotiation and relationship building to the betterment of all stakeholders.

In the meantime, anyone who seeks Lewis-Fernandez’s advice would be well advised to take what she says with a grain of salt.  After all, if this is how she views negotiation, then can we trust that anything she writes is for anything other than her own benefit?