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Business Diplomacy 101
By: Gary H. Bedian

How not to kill your negotiating partner

Negotiating the deal isn’t about raking somebody over the coals.  A common misconception is that if you aren’t demonstratively aggressive enough, you are not doing your job right. After all, business is business, just as war is war—right?  It is true that business negotiation can employ war-like qualities. The error with this reasoning, however, is in confusing war with business. Admittedly, most successful negotiators do not operate with the altruism of Mother Teresa, but over-aggressive posturing often produces a wasteful game of tit-for-tat, creating unreasonable and unsustainable excesses in the initial positioning.  That type of negotiation produces resentment at the end. It is reasonable to use some tactics to push for the best deal, but why heap up unnecessary gamesmanship to hammer the opposition until they give up.  While you may be inclined to employ a few time-honored tactics of pressing a sense of urgency to move the deal-making process along, it isn’t necessary to hang a sword over your opponent’s head.

Good negotiations are effective in terms of both creating actionable contracts and in causing situations that are mutually agreeable.  The negotiating process should begin with a complete understanding of all possibilities – political, personal, legal, economic – and shaping them into actionable and sustainable business policy.  Business diplomacy is the art of thinking strategically about the range of influences within your operational context and moving beyond immediate goals and growing your long-term interests.  You should think of business diplomacy as an energy-saving tactic. What use is a business arrangement that has a negative impact on your assets and operations due to its inflexible and unyielding qualities? Overly aggressive tactics could force the negotiation into an effort-wasting wrestling match. Your negotiating partner may feel that he or she isn’t being aggressive enough. They may also use the opportunity as a ruse to demand an entirely new schedule of terms.

A business diplomat thinks strategically about how the negotiation could impact all interests downstream. With the benefit of that perspective, undertaking the necessary outreach and action with your negotiating partner will not only protect those interests, but also help you meet long-term goals so that long-term growth may be achieved with as little effort as is necessary.

American folklore gives us the motto “moderation in everything.” Most of us have an elder family member who scolded us when we were children for requesting too many toys on Christmas or birthdays, or for wanting a second helping of dessert. To them, moderation was the watchword; live in the state of being gratified was the lesson.  Negotiating good terms means gaining good relationships. Be firm on your terms, fight when necessary, but the ultimate goal is to negotiate to satiate; find grounds to meet satisfaction, without desire for more.

If you enter the negotiation with your partner in the crosshairs, you won’t accomplish much.  The relationship could become unworkable and inflexible. The arrangement should be sustainable and contribute to your mutual interests in a positive way.  Overly aggressive behavior during negotiation may make management of the agreement far more costly for you. More important, with no spirit of cooperation during the negotiation, there is little chance of goodwill if (or when) you need a little breathing room.

Gary H. Bedian, Investment Advisor, Founder of Bedian International. Email: Website: