Negotiation 101

by Brian Keaney

Luca, the morning after.

“Let’s cut to the chase,” the woman on the other end of the phone said to me.  “How much do you want?”

I’ve often said that I prefer Aristotle to Plato because the former gets right to the point while the later meanders through hundreds of pages and you still don’t have any answers at the end.  This woman was clearly an Aristotelian – or at least wanted to get me off the phone – and I liked that about her.  I did want answers to some of my questions first, but that was simply for my own edification and I wanted my money more.  I decided to skip the lesson.

When my Jeep blew up and then spent the night at the bottom of the ocean it was, needless to say, totaled.  The woman who asked me how much I wanted was asking how much I wanted the insurance company to pay.  I threw out a high number.  It wasn’t unreasonable, but it was higher than I was expecting to get.  It was a good deal more than what their original offer to me was.

She told me she couldn’t go that high and gave a number a few hundred dollars less.  If I wanted to make a case for my original figure, she said, I would have to go to a supervisor.  Deciding that a reasonable offer in the hand was worth two in the bush, I decided not to fight it any further.  There was no guarantee that I would get it, and considering that this woman clearly just wanted to get me off the phone by offering the maximum there was even the chance it could go down.

While I’m no dope, I am certainly not an expert negotiator.  I’m no lawyer, only an amateur politician, and haven’t really had all that many high stakes negotiation opportunities.  President Obama, on the other hand, is a lawyer, is a professional politician, and daily has to negotiate on matters that are literally life and death for billions of people around the world.  How, then, he completely capitulated on the debt ceiling deal astounds me.

Other more astute observers have pointed this out already, but I figure that if I was able to get the insurance company to give me $1,100 more for my Jeep than I paid for it, the President of the United States should be able to get a better deal than he did.

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