2 PerspectivesSeptember 3, 2008
“What’s the most important rule in negotiation?” Young lawyers have asked me that question after CLE presentations, clients have asked it at mediations, and relatives have posed it at the dinner table. While others may disagree with my answer, it hasn’t changed since Sid Hill taught it to me almost 25 years ago.
As a college sophomore formally studying negotiation for the first time, I dove into each problem immediately – focusing on tactics like when my partner and I should try the “good cop/bad cop” routine and when I might walk out of the negotiations to see if my opponent would beg me to come back to the table. While my efforts paid off, I eventually pushed too hard in one of my exercises, leaving me with no deal at all. Sure, I had understood conceptually that I needed to close my deal, but I had not focused on what the world would look like if everyone else got their deal done and I didn’t. While I had been on the cusp of closing a better agreement than anyone else, I closed nothing.
Sid Hill, then my professor and later a mentor for many years, articulated the rule I had just stumbled upon. “The power to negotiate is the power to walk away.” More…