President Trump’s Negotiation Skills (or Lack Thereof) – Part 6

Perceptive readers recall my series of posts about President Trump’s negotiation skills.  (Here’s a link to Part 5, which includes links to the whole collection.)

This part provides an overview of Mr. Trump’s negotiation failures whereas the prior parts focused on particular negotiations.  It summarizes a Washington Post column by liberal columnist Paul Waldman.  I think that most of us DR experts would completely agree with this analysis regardless of our political beliefs.

Mr. Waldman lists some major deals that Mr. Trump promised to deliver and then failed to make accomplish, including:

  • A trade deal with China
  • A new nuclear deal with Iran
  • A deal to get North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons
  • A deal to end U.S. involvement in Afghanistan
  • A peace deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians
  • A deal to make Mexico pay for a border wall
  • A deal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act with “something terrific”
  • A deal on new gun safety measures

This list does not include the most recent negotiation debacle — the negotiation with Turkey betraying our Kurdish allies, which prompted virtually universal condemnation.

Mr. Waldman identifies reasons for these failures, aka Negotiation 101:

  • Trump can’t be bothered to understand his negotiating partners.
  • Trump thinks negotiation is just about personality.
  • Trump thinks everything is zero-sum.
  • Trump can’t build trust.
  • Trump doesn’t follow through.

Other than that, he negotiates perfectly.

Perhaps some negotiation experts who support Mr. Trump might argue about some of these assessments of his negotiation behavior.  Indeed, supporters of the president may be especially disappointed by his failure to negotiate promised agreements.  Although they might publicly disagree with this analysis, they generally know that this analysis is all too accurate.

In any case, it’s a good primer of negotiation behaviors to avoid.

One thought on “President Trump’s Negotiation Skills (or Lack Thereof) – Part 6”

  1. Although it is certainly discouraging to read about the problems with President Trump’s negotiation methods, it does highlight the tremendous room for improvement that remains. If I had the opportunity to offer the President some advice, I would focus on two areas for improvement. First, I would explain the importance of following through with negotiation agreements. Next, I would emphasize the fact that negotiation does not have to be a zero-sum game. In explaining both of these concepts, I would hope that the President would begin to understand the importance of reputation. Furthermore, I hope that he would realize that building a positive reputation could have positive impacts for not only him, but the American population in general.

    Following through with negotiation agreements is extremely important because people do not want to spend time negotiating an agreement with someone who is going to ignore the outcome of the negotiation. By not following through with negotiated agreements, President Trump is not only wasting the time of his negotiation counterparts, but he is also showing them massive disrespect. From the perspective of a busy world leader, this could put an end to negotiations with the President altogether. At this point, it does not appear that America has lost their seat at the negotiation table, but there is a very real risk that we will if President Trump continues to behave this way.

    Additionally, if someone were able to convince President Trump that negotiation does not have to be a zero-sum game, then some of his negotiation practices might change for the better. In a zero-sum view of negotiation, if one party wins something, then the other party loses it. However, this does not have to be true in negotiation. By approaching negotiation with a different mindset, one can start to see negotiation as a chance to increase the size of the pie. In short, this means that negotiators can attempt to come up with creative solutions that truly satisfy the interests of both parties without causing the other party to endure a loss.

    By just shifting his negotiation mindset, President Trump could improve his negotiation reputation and results.

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