The Best Negotiation Book to Get You Started

As most master negotiators will tell you, negotiation is a process, rather than an endgame. However, it’s just as important to know that learning how to successfully negotiate is a process as well. So, what’s the benefit of these processes?
Conflict is unsettling, and most of us try to avoid it whenever possible. However, conflict can happen anywhere, anytime—it is often driven more by what we feel than what we want or need. Unfortunately, since humans are naturally driven by emotions, these feelings can obscure or replace logical approaches to conflict resolution. That’s why mastering the art of negotiation is so important.
When it comes to learning how to successfully negotiate, there are a variety of tools that can help beginners understand the ins and outs of the world of negotiation. However, to truly begin learning about an unfamiliar topic, the best options for exploration are books written by experts on the topic. Ron Shapiro is a leading name in negotiation training, including the process of developing and implementing tips and tools for successful negotiating. His book, The Power of Nice, is an amazing tool for anyone looking to get started or get better at negotiating. The text will cover the basics, setting the perfect foundation for resolving any conflict you might face.

Who is Ron Shapiro?

Ron Shapiro is the founder of the Shapiro Negotiations Institute. He has built a reputation as an expert negotiator, drawing on his experience as a lawyer, educator, sports agent, and community leader, as well as a New York Times best-selling author. After graduating from Harvard in 1969, Shapiro went on to found Shapiro Sher—a renowned Baltimore area law firm—in 1976. That same year, Shapiro founded the sports management firm Shapiro, Robinson, and Associates.
Through these early successes, Ron Shapiro developed a reputation for holistic approaches to contract negotiations, financial management, and his everlasting commitment to his community. He has since written four award-winning books that have been best sellers for the New York Times, Business Week, and The Wall Street Journal. Shapiro has chaired over 25 boards of charitable and community organizations. He is a firm believer in the power of successful negotiation for building both personal and professional relationships.

What to Expect from The Power of Nice

Ron Shapiro utilizes his 50-year career to provide approachable material that will help any negotiator succeed. The text makes examples of a broad range of business and life challenges that may require skilled negotiation work.

Recently, the book has been revised and fully updated to provide readers with the best tips and tricks for negotiating any situation. Whether with family, a coworker, or a stranger, conflict will happen, and this book is the perfect guide to help readers embrace a tried and tested approach to negotiating a solution. Throughout, Shapiro will help educate readers in the art of negotiation through a combination of anecdotes, exercises, and tested approaches.

In The Power of Nice, Shapiro will take you through his systematic approach that focuses on the 3 P’s: Prepare, Probe, and Propose. To do so, Shapiro draws on his experience from the world of sports, law, business, politics, and even life itself. He highlights that there are many ways to play “the game,” and how you play it is key. Some approaches tackle conflict with the belief that the winner takes all. While this can be successful, it also increases the risk of alienating the other party, risking the opportunity for further communication and collaboration. By contrast, this book stresses the importance of negotiation, as well as its long-term benefits.

Understanding Conflict

As mentioned, people experience conflict regularly. It is possible to develop a conflict with closely related individuals, coworkers, or even strangers. Perhaps it isn’t surprising that while conflict can occur for numerous reasons, it often involves an element of inability or unwillingness to understand the other person’s motives. For this reason, when conflict—and the ensuing negotiations—arise, Shapiro maintains that making a sincere effort to try and understand the other person is essential. Empathy can go a long way, especially when the goal is to reach a mutually beneficial agreement.

According to Shapiro, conflict often exists as a situational disagreement or struggle for power that can have a variety of repercussions. In some situations, walking away can serve as the simplest—yet most effective—solution. However, under most circumstances where conflict is involved, it is necessary to find some level of reconciliation, resolving the conflict. When conflict arises where finding a solution is a necessity, understanding the negotiation process is key to moving forward.

The most important part of understanding conflict is determining the first step to take when conflict arises. For many people, it is best to take a step back temporarily, especially if emotions are high. This is because a significant part of successful negotiation relies on the ability to approach a subject with a calm, clear, open mind. Emotions can easily get in the way of any successful negotiation. Once you understand you are in a conflict in which a solution is necessary, it is important to refer to the negotiation process outlined in The Power of Nice. This process establishes the foundation for a successful negotiation with your opposition and helps you reach an agreement that will satisfy all involved.

Learning the Negotiation Process

The negotiation process can be complicated and involves several steps. Since these steps often blend, success relies on your ability to read people and the situation at hand. In The Power of Nice, Shapiro provides access to his successful approach to the negotiation process. First and foremost, he focuses on the three Ps—preparing, probing, and proposing.

By focusing on preparing, probing, and proposing, Shapiro highlights the main stages of negotiation, making the process more approachable for all levels of negotiators. Whether you are new to the negotiation process, striving for mastery, or simply looking for new tips, this text is an excellent guide to understanding the necessities of negotiation.

This book outlines the three Ps as follows:

  • Prepare
    Negotiation begins with understanding the person or persons involved in the conflict as well as the topic at hand. This initial stage sets the foundation for the entire negotiations process. When you are in the preparation stage, it is important to develop an understanding of the tension, situation, and other elements that led to the conflict and necessitated the negotiation process. In addition, you must also learn about the people on the other side, as well as their position.
    Once you have a good understanding of the conflict at hand, you’ll also want to gauge whether it is worth the entire negotiation process. Is this a conflict worth having? Is there a possible solution that is already evident? It is important to realize that not all conflicts are logical—sometimes, they are based on irrational reactions stemming from emotions or misunderstandings. You’ll have to determine whether the process and its potential outcomes are worth the investment. If you decide to move forward with negotiations, be sure to continue your research so that you fully understand the ins and outs of the situation, including both sides of the issue. To help, The Power of Niceincludes a preparation checklist to ensure the most critical areas of focus are covered during the preparation phase.
  • Probe
    In this stage, your focus should remain on testing all the educated assumptions you formed during the preparation stage. This is a fantastic opportunity to exchange information with the other parties involved, with the intent building understanding as well as a relationship. Building a relationship can be key to successful negotiation, as you want the opposing party to form respect and trust in you and the negotiation process. This stage can help you establish any possible common ground as well as build up trust and credibility.
  • Propose
    After conducting your research and learning all you can about the opposing side, you’re ready to begin the meat of the negotiation process. This involves laying out a proposal that states your case as well as actively listening to the corresponding proposal from the other side. At this stage, the outcome should be finding some form of resolution. The ideal resolution results in a positive experience for both sides.

In The Power of Nice, Shapiro continuously stresses that negotiation is not an art of right or wrong. As a result, this book wasn’t created to teach you how to win. Instead, the book is meant to provide you with the power that comes with understanding that sometimes, winning means reaching a compromise and creating the ability to move forward.
If both parties had to make sacrifices, each did so out of the confident belief that negotiation will lead to better things. Negotiating hinges upon the ability to be an active listener as well as a willingness to take a step back when necessary. To do so, you must both exhibit and seek empathy, even in the most complex of conflicts.

Put Negotiation Skills to the Test

Learning negotiation isn’t possible overnight. It takes patience, practice, and the willingness to learn and grow from your mistakes. However, it is well worth the effort. Life is full of conflict, and that conflict can exist within yourself, your relationship with others, and your relationship with the world.
No two people will ever experience the world in the same way. We are shaped by our experiences as well as those around us. Conflict arises when these different views, experiences, and expectations collide. However, without pursuit of resolution, conflict ultimately leads nowhere. By learning the negotiation process, you learn how to anticipate conflict and react accordingly. When you prepare, probe, and propose, odds are you’ll be able to achieve a successful negotiation that reaches a resolution that leaves both parties happy.
Achieving the skills necessary to pursue a successful negotiation can take time. Fortunately, there are resources to help this process along. The Power of Nice can help you master the tools you need to become a successful negotiator at home, at work, and beyond. Learn more about The Power of Nice and see how it can help you develop strong negotiation skills today.

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