June 2017
Raphael Lapin

Negotiation, Mediation and Litigation-Avoidance Specialists Since 1995

10940 WILSHIRE BOULEVARD, Suite 1600
Tel: 888-964-8884
Dear Clients and Friends,


In this June 2017 edition of  NE GOTIATION STRATEGIES, I make a strong case for adopting a policy of consulting before deciding in your negotiation strategies with your relationship partners.
For your reading convenience, we also distill this into a brief lessons learned at the end of the column.
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Raphael Lapin
With our allies today feeling less sure of our support, U.S. foreign policy is faced with a credibility issue among our alliance partners.  Other countries may be less inclined to trust our promises, commitments and pledges and therefore less likely to enter into trade agreements, nuclear anti-proliferation deals and defense treaties with us.

I was recently watching a rerun of Firing Line from circa 1970 in which William F. Buckley Jr. was debating (a very young) John Kerry as to whether or not the U.S. should cut their losses and pull out of Vietnam unconditionally.  

Buckley argued that if the United States were to proceed along that course of action, it would send a negative message to our SEATO (South East Asian Treaty Organization) partners that we cannot be relied upon and trusted. Kerry argued (not very compellingly in the opinion of this author) that although the negative message issue was a general concern, it did not apply in the case of Vietnam.

In listening to the debate, I found it astonishing that both Buckley and Kerry failed to suggest the obvious solution to this dilemma. Let us consult with our SEATO partners (or at the least inform them), before making the decision.  Consultation means that I inform my relationship partners about decisions that may affect them, that I solicit their thoughts and concerns and listen to them.

In the case of Vietnam, this would have allowed us an opportunity to explain our calculus to our SEATO partners, and for them to give their input and voice their concerns. By consulting with them, they would feel engaged in the decision-making process, ownership over the act, and their trust in us would have been preserved.

In this column I make the case as to why consulting our relationship partners before making decisions that affect them, is imperative.

When making a unilateral decision, we can often be blinded by strong emotions or we may lack necessary additional information that might impact our decision.  By consulting our partners, a hasty decision will be avoided as we gain new perspectives that might alter our thinking and advance a more optimal outcome.

In 1987, President Reagan and General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, understanding the importance of consulting and communicating, agreed to upgrade the "hot line" between their two capitals. This would provide each with ample opportunity to consult the other before hasty impulsive and potentially destructive decisions were made or actions taken. 

Consider the words of former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt of West Germany in describing how former President Gerald Ford used consultation to improve his reliability: "Under his Presidency" the Chancellor wrote, "the United States became, from Bonn's point of view, a more predictable and reliable partner and leader of the Atlantic Alliance. Gerald Ford never surprised me with one-sided decisions taken without consultation". (From his memoirs and as quoted in the New York Times, December 13, 1987).

If you make decisions that affect others without any advance notice, you will be seen as less predictable, reliable and trustworthy. If on the other hand, you consult before deciding and seek the input from those who may be impacted by the decision, you will be seen as predictable and reliable. This will build and preserve trust and credibility with those with whom you have valuable relationships.

A client of ours who was the president of a mid-sized company, made a decision to let fifteen percent of his work force go, due to three consecutive periods of losses. His primary concern in executing this decision was the reaction of the union which he could not afford to antagonize in any way.  He contacted us for strategy and advice. We advised him to consult the union before making and announcing the decision.

He met with the union leadership and said: "Due to the financial state of the company, I need to find ways of reducing costs of which payroll is a significant one. But before making any decisions, I wanted to discuss various options with you to hear your views and get your input and ideas".

This led to a very cooperative and productive meeting with the union.  They came up with ideas for restructuring production and workforce with incentive plans for employees to take cuts in return for payouts later, if and when the financial health of the company was revived. They also agreed to a percentage of job cuts.

By consulting with the union, the president was able to obtain their full support for his decisions. Had he made that decision unilaterally, he might very well have had to face a strike which might have dealt a decisive blow to his company.

About1About Lapin Negotiation Services


Lapin Negotiation Services 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.
  • Train and prepare your sales teams for sales presentations
  • 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