Friday, May 13, 2011

Battle over national debt ceiling has negotiation experts shaking their heads

The May 11, 2011 issue of the Washington Post had an interesting article by David A. Fahrenthold that looks at the political negotiations over extending the national debt ceiling.

Published in the Post Style Section, the article says a lot about our culture’s adoption of the ideas in Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher and William Ury.

The article reviews the negotiating styles of politicians and concludes that they are, in a word, amateurs, to wit:

That’s the frustrated conclusion that America’s professional negotiators have reached, after watching Washington’s politicians begin their own negotiation over the national debt ceiling. These professionals are ex-FBI agents, labor mediators, divorce counselors. They have learned the rules that help resolve unsolvable standoffs: Don’t lie to a man on a high ledge. Don’t box yourself in with sweeping threats. Don’t tell your adversary to “act like an adult.”

And it bugs them to see their art practiced this way.

I believe that many of us, observing the posturing and lack of negotiations skills we see between political leaders every day, agree with the main thrust of the article -- that both sides “have no idea what they’re doing.”

This bothers me. My guess is that one of the reasons both parties are held in such low regard is that most of us understand that effective negotiations require a level of professionalism that the politicians don’t often meet. Political leaders have a lot to learn about negotiations strategy. Too bad they don’t seem to be paying attention.

Bill Ury was quoted in the article as saying, “The country deserves better negotiations.”

How true.

No comments:

Post a Comment