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What Is Negotiation?
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By Peter B. Stark

Peter Barron Stark is the author of The Only Negotiating Guide You'll Ever Need, published by Broadway Books, a division of Random House. He travels internationally training leaders, sales professionals and procurement specialists in the art of negotiation. His clients include Alcon Laboratories, Lowe's, the NFL, Ralston Purina, the San Francisco Giants, Sempra Energy, Sony, Univision, Virgin Entertainment, Wells Fargo and WD-40. You can contact him at www.everyonenegotiates.com, (877) 727-6468 or peter@pbsconsulting.com.

What do you think of when you hear the word negotiation? The president trying to persuade Congress to pass his budget? The former Los Angeles chief of police, Daryl Gates, trying to persuade the L.A. City Council he was worthy of retaining his job? Exxon fighting with the environmentalists to decide how much the company should pay to clean up the Alaskan shoreline marred by the Valdez oil spill? A department manager trying to secure more personnel or a larger budget? Labor and management locked in a twelfth-hour contract struggle? Buyer and seller haggling over the price of a house or a car? Most of us do tend to think of negotiation in terms of such win/lose scenarios.

Recently, at a San Diego State University-sponsored seminar on negotiation, the following question was posed to participants: How often do you negotiate--often, seldom, or never?

Surprisingly, over 36 percent of the respondents answered seldom or never. However, this was a trick question! The correct answer is always. Everything in life is negotiated, under all conditions, at all times: from asking your significant other to take out the morning garbage to merging into a freeway lane in rush-hour traffic, from determining what time to schedule an appointment with a client to deciding which 11:00 news program to watch with your family--every aspect of your life is spent in some form of negotiation.

Gerard I. Nierenberg, the author of the first book on the formalized process of negotiation, The Art of Negotiating, and president of the New York City-based Negotiation Institute Inc., states that "whenever people exchange ideas with the intention of changing relationships, whenever they confer for agreement, then they are negotiating."

The late Israel Unterman, a professor of management at San Diego State University, expands Nierenberg's definition slightly to note that "negotiation is conducted neither to widen nor to breach the relationship, but to form a new or different configuration."


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