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A 3,000 Year Old Negotiating Technique that Will Never Die

Tyler Hall

If you are a believer in the Biblical account of Creation, we have a record there of the first negotiation between a snake (the Devil) and Adam and Eve.  If you don’t, the history of negotiation dates all the way back to 6000 BC. Introduced by Mesopotamian tribes, bartering was adopted by Phoenicians, the early negotiators.

The art of negotiation has not changed dramatically over time; it has been refined and improved through research into negotiating style, psychology, philosophy and training techniques, and by the impact of technology on negotiation.

An interesting lesson we can still use today is learnt from the Treaty of Kadesh between the Hittites and the Egyptians. They were at war with one another, and it was extremely costly for both sides. They needed to find a way to resolve this without appearing to look weak by being the side to concede to a peace offering or treaty. We have both the Egyptian and Hittite versions of the treaty in their respective languages. There is only one difference between them. The Egyptian version states that it was the Hittites who asked them for peace, and the Hittite version of the treaty states that it was the Egyptians who asked them for peace.

The lesson still applicable today is:  think about how you can “save face” for, or better the perception of how the other party may look after a negotiation. You will find deals may come more easily by putting yourself in their shoes in order to consider how they will be perceived  in the market place, but also, very importantly, internally. Find out what their pressures and constraints are, what their objectives are, what will be an outcome that their business will see as “achieving above and beyond”. If you can give them what they need, on your terms, they will be looking good, which will strongly enhance the chances of future business and sustained relationships.

Consider making either/or proposals as well. That is, provide the other party with options. Options are effective, as the other party will perceive themselves as owning the decision and therefore ‘buy’ more into the deal.

Some things never change, and it is highly unlikely that the critical skills of negotiation will ever lose their relevance.

Happy negotiating,

Tyler Hall  


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