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Book Review: Negotiate to Win by Jim Thomas

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It’s a dog eat dog world out there. Jim Thomas, author of “Negotiate to Win,” says when it comes to bargaining with each other that shouldn’t be a problem as long as we are willing to share at least some of our kibble. Thomas’s book, due out this fall, aims to give readers tips and hints on how to negotiate successfully in almost any situation. In a seemingly saturated market of similar books, this one stands out not only for its genuine usefulness but for it’s unique approach to the topic as well.

“Negotiate to Win” begins by explaining why good negotiating skills are a necessity, both personally and professionally. Haggling, says Thomas, is a part of nearly everything we do throughout the course of our lives so we might as well be good at it. Furthermore, as other nations become more accessible to us via technology and a “new globalism” sets in, we are increasingly likely to find ourselves in situations where negotiating is a necessity.

Next, Thomas presents commonly held misconceptions about the art of haggling and smashes them to bits. He summarily dismisses studies claming that the mere shape of a table or temperature of a room can impact the outcome of a negotiating situation. In fact, it was these prevailing misconceptions that prompted Thomas to write his book. While attempting to develop a brief synopsis on negotiating techniques many years ago, all he found was “theory, folklore, trivia, clichés and war stories” but no simple, straightforward answers. Thomas decided to use his 25 years of experience negotiating real estate, labor relations, mergers and acquisitions to develop a roadmap on how to reach a deal that people on both sides of a table can live with.

Instead of diving right into the heart of the matter, Thomas takes the time to educate the reader on why Americans find negotiating so uncomfortable while people in other countries seem to almost enjoy the process. In fact, Thomas asserts that Americans are perhaps the worst negotiators on the planet. While he acknowledges that there are several theories about why this is the case, there are no concrete conclusions. However, understanding that our anxieties exist and are perhaps culturally motivated is the first step towards overcoming negotia-phobia.

The second section of “Negotiate to Win” covers 21 rules broken down into three categories: The Critical Rules, The Important but Obvious Rules and The Nice to Do Rules. These chapters cover everything from how make your opening offer to prioritizing needs versus wants. Here is where the reader will find a step by step breakdown of the negotiating process, interspersed with “Thomas Truisms,” little bites of useful information to tuck away for future reference.

Section Three addresses the ethics of haggling as well as giving the reader a more in depth look at cross cultural and international negotiating. Focusing mainly on Asia, Thomas clearly demonstrates how critical it is to have a fundamental understanding of how cultural differences can make or break even the most innocuous negotiating situation. Even something as simple as offhandedly admiring your counterpart’s fountain pen has the potential to present an awkward situation.

Though this book is aimed at negotiators in a corporate or professional environment, Thomas repeatedly points out that most of these skills will come in handy while haggling over car purchases, real estate transactions and even the ubiquitous spousal disagreement. The reader need not be a high-powered corporate mogul to find value in this book for its take away messages can be used in virtually any situation requiring an effective deal making strategy.

Perhaps the only drawback to this book was in its layout. With 3 main sections, 3 subsections, 14 chapters, 21 rules and 50 “Truisms” scattered throughout the book, the information does not flow as easily as it could. This becomes especially apparent when one salient point is cross referenced against another with no clear indication where in the book it may be found. Fortunately, there is a detailed table of contents at the front, along with a complete list of “Truisms” at the end.

Thomas’s humorous writing style and refreshing lack of negotiator’s lingo make “Negotiate to Win” easy to read. It has a wealth of information that anyone, from entrepreneurs to retirees will find helpful the next time they find themselves in a negotiating situation. In the interminable worlds of John F. Kennedy, “Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.”

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