Fittest loser
Article posted: 11/2/2013 5:00 AM

Washington needs true negotiations

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Anyone who has engaged in negotiations knows that, upon reaching an agreement, it is worthwhile to assess both the substance and the process of the concluded bargaining.

There's an old saying that reminds us that "how" you do something often speaks louder than "what" you do. That's why, as we remain fixated on what was achieved in the recent congressional deliberations, it is of paramount importance to look carefully at how the bargaining was conducted.


The manner in which negotiations proceed sets the stage for subsequent deliberations with the effects going forward often being cumulative. As participants who have previously negotiated re-enter bargaining on previously discussed issues, they rarely forget how they were treated in past. Negotiating parties are rarely eager to again wade into waters that have been poisoned with condescension, insults and name-calling.

In 1981, the Harvard Negotiation Project: "Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In." This seminal work, first published in 1981, sought to replace traditional positional bargaining with interest-based negotiations. In fostering bargaining based on principles, the "Getting to Yes" approach decries tricks, threats, posturing, name-calling and defending positions.

One could argue, that these very dysfunctional behaviors were on full display in the recent congressional negotiations and leave us with little confidence that things will improve in the next round of deliberations that will culminate in February.

President Obama is the linchpin to satisfying results. His tone and his behavior are the keys in opening essential dialogue or fostering defensive partisan monologues.

If he remains truculent, intractable, churlish and unwilling to negotiate in good faith as previously demonstrated, it is likely that history will repeat itself. Governing by crisis management and brinkmanship is tedious and maddening. We're tired and mad.

The country expects and deserves better from all who represent us in D.C.

Ronald Bearwald


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