Book Report - You Can Negotiate Anything by Herb Cohen

By: Jeannette M. Nieves, Legal Assistant/General Practice Division

We all negotiate on daily basis.  Negotiations are ubiquitous, though.  In his book, Herb Cohen explains in detail the art of negotiation.  This book includes many things that we don’t normally associate with negotiation.

In some cases, a successful negotiation is just a matter of talking to the right person within an organization.  Always remember that a person with little power might not have the ability to help you even if they wanted to.  It is recommended that you reach to a manager or director at an organization. 

Before deciding to enter negotiation, ask yourself will the negotiation meet your needs, if you will feel comfortable into negotiating and if it will be worth the effort.  It is recommended to avoid negotiations where one party’s gain is another party’s loss.  These are called Zero-sum game.  Always keep in mind that people have unique needs.  Multiple times the negotiation can be successful without anyone losing out.   

Opposed to popular beliefs, it can be a mistake in focusing too much on the other party's demands.  Instead, really understanding the underlying needs and desires of the other party’s will move the negotiation to a faster and successful settlement.  Highlighting shared goals before negotiations are a very helpful strategy as well.  Much of the information gathering should happen before the official negotiations begin.   Remember that information exchange is a “give and take” kind of game.  In order to gain information, you need to give information.  This is a normal part of any negotiation, and you should not be intimidated by sharing your expectations.

There are other sources you can use, such as, alternative options available; an existing precedent for what you expect, the legitimacy of your request and having expertise or credentials.  Also, letting the other party invest time and effort makes them more willing to compromise.  This is called getting commitment. 

In every negotiation that you are involved the crucial elements should be:

  1.  Information about the other side
  2. Time is of the essence.  Be aware your deadlines will make you feel under certain amount of pressure that the other side might not have.
  3. Power.  Don’t be deceived by the belief that the other side has more power than you.

Getting the other person to identify with you can give you greater outcomes.  Always be considerate and likeable with the other party. Never approach anyone in aggression.  Do not complain, just let your circumstances be understood.   While negotiating you should avoid getting emotionally involved.  The best way to keep your cool is to imagine that you are negotiating on someone else’s behalf. 

However, always remember this: “Of course you can get what you want, but part of what you want should be to help others along the way.” This is my favorite quote in the book, after all we are here to help each other.

In my opinion, this is a fantastic book and is enriched with plenty of day to day examples.  When I started reading this book, I believed mistakenly, that this book was mainly for our attorneys that negotiate daily on behalf of our clients.   That is not the case with this book, we all negotiate on daily basis in every walk of life and it is vital to have the skills and understanding to deal with those situations.  We all have the power to change our lives and the lives of others as well.