December  2014
Raphael Lapin



10940 WILSHIRE BOULEVARD, Suite 1600

Tel: 888-964-8884

Dear Clients and Friends



We often think that things only happen when we are doing something. Sometimes by doing nothing and letting time run it's course, more is accomplished. In  this December '14 edition of  NEGOTIATION STRATEGIES I demonstrate this idea and how it relates to negotiation. 


For your reading convenience, I have also distilled this column into a brief lessons learned at the end of the column.


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With very best wishes and the warmest Season's Greetings


Raphael Lapin


I recently mediated two very difficult  disputes in which not only did the disputants themselves believe that any resolution was eternally elusive (not uncommon), but even I, as mediator had very little hope (very uncommon)! It appeared that the parties were about to terminate mediation on numerous occasions, when one or the other stormed out of the mediation session, threatening onerous law suits on their way out.


Ultimately, to my astonishment, both disputes were not only resolved to the satisfaction of the parties, but  relationships were restored to some extent as well.  In my post-mediation debrief, I realized that  key factors  that helped to advance resolution on these seemingly intractable conflicts between apparently intransigent  disputants, was time, patience and perseverance.


Consider  the  negotiation between a buyer and prospective  seller over the purchase of a piece of  real estate. The seller was resisting any offer the buyer was proposing despite displaying a clear intent in wanting to sell.The buyer perceived the seller to be greedy, unreasonable and unrealistic, and assumed her motivations were entirely money driven. The negotiations were at an impasse. The buyer, faced with this impasse, was at his wits end and about to walk away from this deal.


In another negotiation, a purchase agent was negotiating a contract for an ongoing supply of components. The purchase agent was insisting on a five year exclusivity clause which the supplier was adamantly refusing, despite the potential to generate high profits.  The agent assumed that the supplier did not wish to forfeit other lucrative deals that the exclusivity agreement would eliminate,and the deal was on the verge of collapse.


In both these cases, a negotiation specialist was brought in to help the buyer and purchase agent respectively, to salvage the deal.


The negotiation specialist understood the value of time in negotiations. Time has the capacity to nurture; to cultivate; to build;  to heal; to settle; to calm; to restore and to revive.  He knew that if these negotiations were to be salvaged, he could not allow the parties to walk away. He needed to keep them engaged in negotiation, no matter how little substantive gains may be achieved, while time was working it's magic. The doors of communication had to remain open no matter how insignificant the communication might be, even just to meet periodically  to see if any new ideas were generated or minds perhaps altered. 


Even though to the novice it appears that nothing is advancing, the experienced negotiator realizes that time alone is having a meaningful, albeit subtle and imperceptible effect.


According to Lawrence Wright in his book "Thirteen days in September", President Carter understood this well when he coerced President Anwar Sadat of Egypt and Prime Minister Menachem Begin of Israel to remain at the negotiating table even when agreement seemed impossible at the Camp David accords negotiations.


This period of allowing time to transpire without any tangible or obvious results, can be particularly frustrating. Parties may feel that any effort expended is futile. Often, the only thing keeping them minimally engaged is the fear and  realization that the alternative is too risky and uncertain.(As a mediator or negotiator it is sometimes useful to highlight those risks and uncertainties).  


However, even though there is no apparent advance in the negotiations during this period, there is a lot that is occurring.  Ideas are percolating,  trust incrementally improving, small but useful concessions in information sharing taking place and alternatives to an agreement being seriously evaluated and tested.


The reward for the patience and perseverance  in the real estate negotiation above,  was that with time, the seller revealed what her true reservations and concerns were. They were not about money at all, but rather an attachment to the property tied to many rich childhood memories, that she was loathe to abandon. This nugget of information turned out to be the golden key with which to unlock the stalled negotiations.  


Once the buyer understood this, he was able to propose a deal in which the seller would have the option to rescind  for twelve months (he was confident that she wouldn't!) and a first right of refusal, should the buyer ever decide to sell. He also offered that she was welcome at any time, to bring her children and grandchildren to the property to show them where she grew up. With a deeper understanding generated with time and these low cost concessions , the buyer was able to close a successful deal.


The negotiation between the purchasing agent and supplier above, that reached an impasse over the exclusivity clause had a similar outcome. With the passage of time, the true concerns of the supplier were revealed. Here too, it was not about money, in fact he was quite happy with the terms. His real concern was that he had already entered into a contract  to supply the same components to a business belonging to a family member.  He was not prepared to renege on that commitment due to an exclusivity agreement with the purchasing agent of the large company, even though the contract was indeed lucrative.


When you find yourself engaged in a long and arduous negotiation, and are tempted to throw in the towel, remember that time, patience and perseverance are your trusted friends. Keep the channels of communication open and allow time to do it's work!

About1About Lapin Negotiation Strategies 


Lapin Negotiation Strategies offers training, consulting, advising and executive coaching in negotiation, business diplomacy and dispute resolution services.


Our proprietary and aggressively results oriented services are designed to help your leadership, teams and individuals master the essential negotiation, relationship-building and conflict management skills that increase revenues, decrease the high cost of conflict and build strong working relationships.

Our skilled specialists will:
  • Help your organization build a highly effective negotiation competency and culture which translates into increased revenue and strong business relationships.
  • Develop high impact, customized learning systems to develop advanced skills and powerful techniques in negotiation, dispute resolution and relationship management.
  • Provide advice, strategy, guidance and representation in live negotiation challenges
  • Facilitate, mediate and advise in dispute resolution
  • Create a culture of collaboration by guiding and training teams and divisions to engage in dialogue, to negotiate and to partner
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Raphael Lapin

Raphael Lapin, a Harvard trained negotiation and communication specialist. He is adjunct professor of law at Whittier School of Law in Southern California and visiting professor at Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles. Raphael trains and advises Fortune 500 companies and governments around the world and is the author of "Working with Difficult People" (DK Penguin Essential Managers Series)
Working with Difficult People
 Learn more about Raphael Lapin's book, "Working with Difficult People" by clicking on the image above