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  Life   More Features  05 Dec 2018  Art of Negotiation

Art of Negotiation

Published : Dec 5, 2018, 12:49 am IST
Updated : Dec 5, 2018, 12:49 am IST

Humans tend to err, and Professor Stuart Diamond has developed ways of ‘Getting More’ out of life.

Professor Stuart Diamond
 Professor Stuart Diamond

A Pulitzer winning mind, Professor Stuart Diamond answers the conundrum that exists in lives across the world. Errors in judgment, reactions, counter-reactions, influences, habits and human foibles — in a nutshell where we go wrong in our negotiations. All in the pursuit of skills that are so important today. The Haverford resident has written books that have topped New York Times and Wall Street Journal charts. In a world where reactions and interactions are what matter, Prof Diamond, who has been teaching the art of negotiation at the Wharton Business School (now emeritus professor) was in the country to impart Negotiation 5.0,  an interactive workshop titled Getting More, based on his bestselling book of the same name, for which he was visiting Bengaluru. “When I attended Harvard Law School in 1987 after being a journalist at The New York Times, I discovered the Harvard Negotiation Project where they taught and studied negotiation. I liked that they had an organised structure, and found that I was good at it. So, when I graduated from Harvard Law in 1990, the Project offered me a job as associate director and also head of their outside negotiation consulting firm, and I took it instead of becoming another Wall Street lawyer. After two years, I realised that the Harvard model was too logical and didn’t account sufficiently for emotions, cultural diversity and perceptions, so I applied to Wharton Business School, got an MBA, started teaching and researching a more diverse, realistic and valuable method of human interaction. This became Getting More.”

When it comes to life and its endless problems, the one thing that most humans do wrong is what Diamond focuses on (to change). For all of us, the obvious mistakes people make, are, “They focus too much on power, leverage, threats and logic. Power, leverage and threats, that is, trying to force other people to do things, prompts retaliation, mistrust and creates only 25 per cent the value as understanding the perceptions of others and finding collaborative solutions. Power and leverage also reduce innovation as the targets of these things don’t give back their best ideas. And logic usually misses the mark as most negotiations are emotional,” Diamond reveals.

For Diamond, the Negotiation model he developed is based on research, writing and applications. “Writing a New York Times bestseller, Getting More: How You Can Negotiate To Succeed in Work and Life, that the Wall Street Journal’s career site said is the #1 book to read for one’s career, and applying these techniques in many parts of the world,” Diamond reveals keeps him busy.

In the larger scheme of things, Diamond has earlier solved the Hollywood writer’s strike of 2008, has advised Latvia on putting together the first popularly elected government since the Russian Revolution, provided a process to help the Colombians successfully negotiate with the FARC to end the longest terrorism (50 years) in the Western Hemisphere, apart from many other issues. So when he sat down to write  Getting More, it was because people he had taught and advised wanted him to share those highly-successful collaborative methods.

The book changed people’s lives in more than 60 countries. Yet, more importantly, “It helped getting parents and kids to get along better, helping people find better jobs and better pay, evened the playing field for women and diverse groups and saved people’s lives,” he adds.

To forge agreements instead of conflicts, Diamond had covered the Three Mile Island nuclear incident, for which he shared a Pulitzer Prize for the investigation of NASA’s hand in the 1986 Challenger space shuttle tragedy, and also reported on Chernobyl and the Bhopal Gas tragedy... He speaks of the learning therein, “We can learn that the biggest factor in successes and failures is people, not facts or equipment. Each of these accidents could have been avoided had more attention been paid to human factors. That is the same in negotiation. Whether people like it or trust each other, whether they are focused or distracted, whether they fight or collaborate – all have a greater impact on results,” explains the professor who spends his time at Wharton “figuring out how to teach and help other people solve problems through better human interactions.” An imperative endeavour in a society that is alienating itself thanks to AI and divisive mindsets.

Focusing on change, his day is filled with interactions with his students, “I teach students to create more value in their lives through constant collaboration, problem solving and persistence,” adds  Professor Diamond.

Brought up in New Jersey, he  feels that after winning the Pulitzer, he wanted to expand his horizons, learn new skills and advise on specific problems. At age 10, his father got a job working with the military in Nurenberg (Germany), the exposure to diverse cultures and the strife of Europe during the Cold War led to his inexhaustible interest in diversity. His home is filled with awards, and the most dear to him is, “The Pulitzer, of course, as it exposed a series of major flaws in the US space agency’s economic and safety management that caused loss of life. I am also proud of a prize I won early in my career for a profile of Paul Robeson, the African-American actor and singer from the 1920s to the 1950s, an all-American football player and civil rights activist who was then almost unknown.”

Diamond now wants to write a new book on the nature of identity and the fallacy of stereotypes, or a book about how to negotiate with children. “I believe that the next generation of young people is much more fair-minded, ecologically friendly and reasonable than the current and past generations. I think we just have to get past the next 10 or 15 years and we’ll be OK,” he says of the worrying rise of dictators and divisiveness.

As a family, the professor believes his family values each other, including the differences and idiosyncrasies, “We don’t try to manipulate each other emotionally or in any other way,” he adds. A word of advice from the mind who directs thought and action to what matters, “I’ve always thought that tomorrow is more important than yesterday. After all, tomorrow is what one can affect,” concludes the professor.

Tags: wall street journal, professor stuart diamond