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.

2 thoughts 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.

  2. I greatly appreciate the continual nature of this series. I find the average person often forgets how pervasive negotiation is and the overarching consequences the lack of this skill can result. While focusing on President Trump’s failures is highly concerning, there is much to be learned from his dealings. If anything, the President’s negotiation shortcomings provide a well-documented “blueprint” for what future presidents should strive not to do during their term. Finally, in this day and age there are few things that are truly non-partisan, a title I believe applies to negotiation.

    This series provides well-rounded commentary and analysis of President Trump’s negotiation strategies, which is required to determine suggestions for change. Several reasons were identified, and rightly so, in regard to President Trump’s failed negotiations. Of these reasons, I believe the following must be overcome inability to follow through, refusal to understand negotiating partners, and inherent lack of trust.

    The largest hurtle the President must clear to be a successful negotiator is the inability to follow through. As this post mentioned, the President has a lengthy list—nine in total—of unkept promises. Setting aside his status as head of the nation, any negotiator who cannot fulfill promises is not likely to be trusted, readily worked with, or taken seriously in the future. If the President hopes to represent the country appropriately, he must discontinue this practice of empty promises.

    In addition, the most successful negotiators are those who can read those on the other side of the table. Doing so helps drive the negotiation forward as opposed to in circles. Trump’s refusal to know his negotiation partners strategies leaves both himself and the fate of the nation blind to potential solutions.

    Finally, the President’s lack of trust building skills in highly questionable. When two parties go into negotiation, there should be inherent trust that both sides want the best outcome. His inability to trust, or gain trust, creates an effective wall between the issue and its solution. While a level of skepticism is crucial to self-preservation, there is no room for the amount he is allowing to poison the negotiation well.

    If given the opportunity, I would simply tell President Trump to seriously reflect on his negotiation history and make simple changes in his approach that would yield high results.

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