By Dick Armey, former Republican congressman from Texas and House Majority Leader

If you're going to be negotiating recurrently with someone, and you usually will in business, don't get labeled. We had this guy in Congress everybody called "Half a Loaf" because in every deal he would say, "I'll meet you halfway." Because he was predictable, nobody was willing to go further with him. It's a bad deal to get branded.

The other key, I think, is that, as in a dysfunctional marriage, every fight is really about something else. One time, we were working on a difficult piece of high-tech legislation and we had two very passionate senators at the table. I was having a hard time understanding their problem. Then I reflected on their history and realized that whatever it was, they were not going to agree with each other. It was personal. So I left the room with a member of my staff. We did little more than change a comma and renamed it the Armey plan. The senators both said, "We can live with this." They could sign off on something they saw as the product of a third party but not on anything that could be claimed by the other side.

As told to Ian Mount