Negotiating When The Other Party Won’t

Today I was referred to a piece from Paperwight’s Fair Shot written June, 2004. Take a read: The “Getting to Yes” Problem,

When I was in law school, and early in my career, there was a lot of talk about the “Getting to Yes” style of negotiation, where you negotiate to a bigger pie for everyone (good) instead of zero sum positional bargaining (bad). Unfortunately, this is only true if both sides are willing to play along. If one side just wants to win, and doesn’t care about establishing a relationship or creating a structure that will actually work, for the other side “Getting to Yes” really means “Rationalizing your Concession”. Whichever is most willing to walk away will always win a negotiation. Ask anyone who’s ever done business with WalMart.

In the political context, it’s clear that the Republican Party leadership is willing to walk away. They have no interest in compromise, even within their own party. They have no interest in governing wisely. All they want is what they want, whatever it takes to get that. If they don’t get it, they won’t play until they can. And once they established that, it was very easy to cram concession after concession down the throat of the Democrats, pulling the midpoint further and further toward themselves. The Democrats just tried to pretend to themselves that there had been some sort of reasonable negotiation and compromise.
Now it’s gotten to the point where the Republican Party leadership doesn’t even pretend to compromise or try to get a concession. They rule. And apparently, from what we’ve seen of their internal thought processes, their vision is that they should rule absolutely.
Like Yglesias, I would prefer to discuss, and hammer out, and reach workable solutions. Like Klein, I’d prefer to do so in a friendly way, over a beer (and can, with the principled conservatives that I know).
But like Stoller, I know that you can’t really have a beer or a friendly discussion with someone who wants you cowed and beaten, if not just completely eliminated. Not in business, not in politics.

You have to go read the original, and follow its links. But a week on the internet is a very long time. A year and a half can be an eternity in blogging. This was just one “foundation” piece that helped shape people’s thinking. A year and a half later it’s frustrating because it seems like too many in Congress are still trying to make nice with a political party that seems to have turned into a power-cult. But how many of them were exposed to this thinking at all?
I like to think of the “blogosphere” as a huge open-source “think tank” where ideas are proposed, discussed, amended and improved at a very fast pace. The problem is that those of us inside the process can lose track of how far away that can take us from the thinking and understanding of people who aren’t able to stay connected to every discussion. (How many of us know about “turkee?”)
So, we’re getting a lot done. How do we help the rest of us – the people who aren’t as connected – to “get it?”
See also Hulk Smash.

2 thoughts on “Negotiating When The Other Party Won’t

  1. The trouble with “Getting to Yes” and other kinds of pop analyses that assume attitude determines results is that it is often just flatly false as a matter of math or physics. Some games really are zero-sum, and no amount of making little fists and stomping your little feet will change it.
    I’ll take a class interests analysis every time.

  2. I know exactly what you mean about this gotta win, no compromise allowed attitude. The problem the Democrats have had is that our government, pretty much since it was founded, and no matter how many serious fights and disagreements there had been, had always worked on the basis of ultimate compromise. Because that’s what grownups do, isn’t it? What we’re seeing now is a thug attitude, a gang attitude, usually a hangover from a rough adolescence, not expected in adult behavior, or for that matter in human behavior.
    It’s only natural to assume that the “other side” is made up of adults who, no matter what their beliefs, mean well. In this case, the other side — looks like people, talks like people, pretty much reasons like people, but ultimately acts like something from another, vastly different, planet. It’s time to face the fact that we’re essentially dealing with another species entirely and respond accordingly. No more Mr. Nice Guy. It’s time for some animal training, whip and gun in hand.

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