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Negotiations and Ethics II

October 21, 2013

Members of Congress compromised at the very last moment. A default of the U.S. Government was thus averted. I am not sure that many people in the U.S. and abroad actually believed that a default would ever happen. Although many tea party members believe that no company is too big to fail, I doubt that they would think the same way about the U.S. Government.

The compromise was reached after intense negotiations that some believed involved blackmail.

We negotiate all the time, both in our personal and professional lives. The etymology of the word comes from the Latin “negotiatio” which simply means “doing business.” However the word is often used to mean to engage in a give and take situation.

Is it possible to be ethical in negotiation? I believe it is possible to be ethical in ANY situation.

Roger Fisher and William Ury in their 1981 non-fiction bestseller Getting to YES introduced the concept of ethics in negotiations in what they called “principled negotiation.”

According to Fisher and Ury, the four elements of a principled negotiation are:

1) Separate the people from the problem.

2) Focus on interests not positions.

3) Invent options for mutual gain.

4) Insist on using objective or mutually acceptable criteria.

Negotiating in such a context does allow the ethical values of honesty, fairness and integrity to come into play. It is possible to build trust in negotiation by being truthful and avoiding deceptive tactics such as exaggerating our strengths and minimizing our weaknesses.

As Johann Von Goethe once said:

“There is nothing in the world more shameful than establishing one’s self on lies and fables.”

P.S.  In preparing for this blog post, doing a search on Google, I came across an article with the very same title. I agree with its content, 100 % and could not have said it better myself!

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Comments (1)

November 1st, 2013 at 1:40 pm Posted by Stan Ketchum

I endorse the 4 elements of negotiation as reasonable and feasible. But when in heated argument, ethical negotiation is likely to be used only after fear of failure overcomes hope for success. In other words just before the descent into madness. And what is this madness? It is called abuse, hatred, bigotry, feuds, war. What is its reach? Madness goes up to and includes the point of self destruction. Ethical principles pale in comparison to the strength of the roiling emotion at such times. Socialized habits are the best we can do to mitigate against insanity. The habit of not passing a certain line, to turn away — often expressed superstitiously — is a universal line of defense. When that line is crossed, things will become worse and may spiral out of control. The Senate should not eliminate the filibuster. Restraint is not needed when one is being reasonable, but rather when one is not.


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