April 2013
Raphael Lapin



10940 WILSHIRE BOULEVARD, Suite 1600

Tel: 888-964-8884

Dear Clients and Friends




In  this April '13 edition of  NEGOTIATION STRATEGIES is a one-minute case study in which we extract lessons from international diplomacy and explore how to develop and expand information in a negotiation to maximize chances of success. We also distill the column into a brief lessons learned at the end for your convenience.


Please feel free to forward this column ot to share it via facebook, linkedin or twitter by clicking on the appropriate icons. If you know anyone who would like to subscribe, they can subscribe by replying to this email or via our website at


Learn more About Lapin Negotiation Strategies  and ways in which we can make an impactful and substantive difference to your organization.


With very best wishes! 



Raphael Lapin


Lessons from international diplomacy

Why are they being so unreasonable! 


This is a question we are often asked by clients. Why won't they agree? Why are they not listening to us?  Why are they not giving us what we want? Why are they being so unreasonable?


When faced with that question, my response is usually "What are you doing or not doing that is allowing them to behave in that way?"


Consider the following report about our chief diplomat's recent efforts to persuade Bagdad to establish a no-fly zone over Iraqi airspace for Iranian aircraft flying supplies in support of Assad.


"We had a very spirited discussion on the subject of the overflights." Or so said John Kerry, on Sunday, after the unannounced visit to Baghdad that preceded his unannounced visit to Afghanistan. Kerry told the Iraqis the U.S. did not appreciate Iranian arms reaching Syrian strongman Bashir al-Assad's hands via Iraqi airspace. "I also made it clear to him that there are members of Congress and people in America who increasingly are watching what Iraq is doing and wondering how it is that a partner in the efforts for democracy and a partner for whom Americans feel they have tried so hard to be helpful -- how that country can be, in fact, doing something that makes it more difficult to achieve our common goals, the goal expressed by the prime minister with respect to Syria and President Assad." (Foreign Policy Magazine March 25, 2013).


Later, Foreign Policy Magazine reported that those efforts were an unfortunate and dismal failure!


Why did Bagdad not agree? Why did  they not listen to Kerry?  Why did they not immediately, without delay establish a no-fly zone for Iranian aircraft?  Why are they being so unreasonable?

I imagine these questions were nagging Kerry on his flight back to the US.


Kerry skipped a crucial phase in the negotiation process which is the joint developing and expanding of information - the essential dialogue of negotiation - that must occur before any proposals can even be offered or discussed.


There are two steps in this phase:

1) Identifying the key questions

2) Using those questions to engage your counterpart in the rigorous "dialogue of negotiation"

Identifying the key questions 


Whenever we try to impose our demands, we will commonly be confronted with hard-nosed defensiveness and fierce resistance. The kind of domineering (and condescending) rhetoric that Kerry engaged in, will typically not get our needs met.


We need to obtain, develop and expand the information before offering any solutions . More specifically, the particular kind of information we need to develop is a cogent understanding of our counterpart's  perceptions, constraints, concerns, fears, and interests.


Before Kerry even left for his unannounced visit to Iraq, some key questions he should have asked himself are:


- What is Iraq's history with Assad?

- What is the Iraqi Prime Minister's personal history with Assad and the Syrian regime?

- Are there any loyalty issues or debts of gratitude that have yet to be discharged on the part of Iraq towards Syria or Assad? (A strong Arab value)

- Who are other stakeholders or actors that could influence or undermine this decision?

- What kind of relationship does Iraq hope to build with Iran?

- How would a no-fly zone impact Iraq's standing in the pan-Arab


- How does Iraq relate to the rebel insurgencies permeating countries like Egypt, Libya and Syria? Are they concerned about disturbing the regional stability both economically and politically?  

- Is Iraq concerned that if the rebels are successful in Syria, it will only be a question of time until they infiltrate Iraq (with US support too)? And would they trust Iran more than the US to protect them?
- What might be other concerns or constraints that Bagdad might have in the face of this decision?


These questions might have provided Kerry with a much clearer map of the terrain that he needed to navigate or at  least might have opened up his mind to learn more necessary and useful information from his counterparts thereby preparing his way for success.

Engaging in the dialogue of negotiation 


Asking the appropriate questions in preparation for a negotiation provides a basis for the dialogue one needs to engage in when meeting with the other side. Before offering Bagdad a solution, Kerry would have been well served to develop and expand information with Bagdad using the above questions as points of departure and further discussion.


This phase is critical not only because of the highly useful information that is learned, but also because of the enormous value in the other side knowing that their concerns have been heard, understood and are being taken seriously. This helps to build trust in the process and strengthens the rapport and relationship between the parties.


Only once there has been a positive exchange of concerns, constraints, fears and interests can the parties  begin to work towards a joint solution that addresses those needs and constraints to the greatest extent possible. This may take some innovative and creative thinking, but the rewards are great!


Had Kerry gone to Bagdad with an authentic diplomatic negotiation approach as outlined above as opposed to the controlling rhetoric of authority and command, I have no doubt that the outcome would have been positively different.

  • When faced with unreasonable people, ask yourself what you could do differently that might allow them respond more favorably and be more reasonable
  • Ask yourself questions about your counterpart's perceptions, needs, concerns, interests and stakeholder
  • Use those questions to engage your counterpart in further discussion 
  • Develop and expand that information and demonstrate immaculate understanding of the other side's points-of-view even if you don't necessarily agree.
  • Work towards a joint solution with your counterpart that addresses both sides needs and constraints to the greatest extent possible.
  • As you try to incorporate all parties' needs, think creatively and try to innovate new solutions and  ideas

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
                  View my profile on LinkedIn

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