Let's just split the difference
October 28, 2011 8:24 PM   Subscribe

What is it like to be in a major negotiation?

What is it like to be at the negotiating table when the eyes of the world are on you? A peace treaty, a major merger, a bi-partisan deal-making committee? I am wondering about, say, the US and Iraq negotiating the status of forces agreement, the Time-Warner negotiating to merge with AOL, the current basketball negotiations.

How do they set their stated and actual positions? How do they try to gauge their opponents positions? When do they decide to walk away hoping to make the other side blink?

Are there any good memoirs, documentaries or fictionalizations?
posted by shothotbot to Human Relations (5 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Definitely not the best answer, but the first book that comes to mind is Thirteen Days, Robert F Kennedy's memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis. It's a very compelling look at an extremely critical event which was essentially a protracted negotiation-at-a-distance. A lot of the elements of any negotiation were involved - incomplete information, text-vs-subtext, the frequent requirement for one or both parties to be able to save face, the role of backchannel communications, etc. And of course the stakes were extremely high.
posted by mikel at 8:35 PM on October 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

You might find this link I have bookmarked, though it's historical and related to my own quirky interests: The Chinese at the Negotiating Table [pdf]. I was interested as it has a case study of the talks at Panmunjom that ended the Korean War. Robert Ekvall (a fascinating figure in his own right, born to missionary parents in late-Qing China and spent many years living with nomads in Tibet) has a memoir of his time as an interpreter in negotiations - he served the US side at Panmunjom - that can be read online here.
posted by Abiezer at 8:49 PM on October 28, 2011

Paris 1919: Six Months that Changed the World by Margaret MacMillan (also, there is a film inspired by the book): about the Paris Peace Conference after WWI

Yalta: The Price of Peace by S.M. Plohky: about the negotiations between Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill in 1945
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 9:07 PM on October 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

From the lighter side, consider watching In the Loop. And learn about the importance of having enough 'meat in the room' while introducing the negotiations.
posted by ouke at 5:22 AM on October 29, 2011

You should probably read "To End a War" by Richard Holbrooke about ending the war between Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia. It's a great book about the complexity and sensitivity required when negotiating with larger than life ego's and dictators.

I second 13 days.
posted by IZ at 2:47 AM on October 31, 2011

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