Business school professors attempt to teach the art of negotiation with a mix of psychology and basic economic logic.
In this heady guide to the art of the deal, Neale (Management/Stanford Univ. Graduate School of Business; co-author: Negotiating Rationally, 1992, etc.) and Lys (Accounting/Northwestern Univ. Kellogg School of Management) transform seemingly obvious and common-sensical business thinking into what often reads like quasi-technical classroom-speak. Curiously, the prose isn’t quite oblique enough to distract from the fact that much of the advice in this book sounds strangely facile. Obvious points abound—e.g., “getting a good deal should be the goal of any negotiation”; “All negotiations are exchanges, but not all exchanges are negotiations”; “If you reached an impasse in the prior negotiation, you are significantly more likely to reach impasse in the next one”; “Power is typically defined as the inverse of dependence…the better your alternatives, the less dependent you are on reaching a deal.” One of the first and most strikingly obvious points made in the first few chapters of the book is that the more alternatives you have when you’re negotiating, the more confident a negotiator you’ll become. For example, a person interviewing for a job who has nine other job offers is going to be a more successful salary negotiator than someone who has no other job offers—unless another interviewee can manufacture the confidence of a person with many alternatives. Throughout the book, Neale and Lys emphasize the importance of maintaining a systematic haggler's mindset: the more you know about your own goals, as well as those of your adversary, the more empowered you will feel in a negotiation. Ultimately, much of the narrative is just common business sense made to sound like a doctoral thesis.
Never fails to bring gratuitous academic heft to the instinctive, ancient principles of simple bartering.