Negotiating in the Real World, by Victor Gotbaum
Simon & Schuster, 1999, 288 pages, $23.50

As former union leader of city workers in Chicago and New York, Gotbaum has spent his life negotiating. His experience ranges from hard-nosed negotiations with big city mayors and large corporate bankers to helping resolve a South African mining dispute. He also played a key role in the wide-ranging negotiations to save New York City from bankruptcy in the 1970s.

But this book is no stroll down Gotbaum's memory lane. It's a hard-hitting, no-nonsense manual on successful negotiation based on scores of real-world examples.

Do You Have What It Takes?

Lesson #1: Not everyone can be a good negotiator. "Participation in negotiations is important, but this does not mean that you must negotiate," Gotbaum writes. "You may be better suited to acting as chief adviser to your negotiator."

Four Lessons

If you must negotiate, Gotbaum offers four key lessons:

1. Look at yourself as a negotiator. A good negotiator needs certain attributes or characteristics: authority (from position, intelligence, reputation, or just plain attitude); a source of power; principles; intellect; awareness of limitations; and sensitivity.

2. Know and be prepared for your adversaries' negotiating style and ability. Will they be authoritarian and confrontational or deceptively passive yet unbudging?

3. Evaluate the stakes and the need for the talks. Understand what's at stake not only for the people you represent but for the adversaries as well.

4. Understand the context of the talks. Context can range from the economic and political environment to the effect of an immovable deadline.

Never Easy

Beyond these four steps, Gotbaum offers chapters on topics such as major negotiations, women in negotiations, and mediation and arbitration.

But it is the many stories that drive the book and its lessons. Stories that show negotiations as they really are, sometimes tough and confrontational, sometimes calm and cooperative.

But never easy. Deceptive Courtesy


With New York City about to default on its loans, bankers and union leaders met to work out a deal on union concessions. Union leader Gotbaum put issues of concern on the table. The bankers nodded their heads. "Sounds reasonable," they said for each new issue.

After hours of negotiations, the bankers put forward their proposal. Gotbaum was furious. The bankers hadn't budged an inch. Thus, Gotbaum learned that bankers always remain courteous and civilized and then do as they please. "You have to know your adversary," Gotbaum writes. "Which I didn't."

Copyright 1999 Soundview Executive Book Summaries