Most negotiations can be analyzed after they are over

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As long as we are exploring comparisons, a good way to think about negotiation is that it is a game. Thinking about negotiation in this way has lots of advantages:

• We can understand the game. It is not a random process. Most negotiations can be analyzed after they are over, and, with increasing understanding comes the ability to predict and control
what happens.
• The game has a predictable sequence of activities. Many people who do not understand negotiation see it as a chaotic, almost random series of events. While it is true that it may be difficult to
accurately predict exactly what a party will do next at any given point, the entire negotiation sequence generally follows a clear, understandable pattern. As you read this book, you will learn to better predict and control how parties move from disagreement toward agreement.
• There are players in the game. As we can see from the earlier example, there can be only one player (when Helen negotiates with herself about which skirt to wear), or there can be two players (her negotiations with Fred and Jim), or there can be multiple players (her negotiations with her team). Who the other players are and what they do have a great deal of impact on how we should plan and execute our strategy. Certainly that’s obvious, but we say
it because in this book, we intend to help you understand and manage the other players better than most other people do. We are not going to deal with self-negotiation, but we are going to deal with all kinds of negotiations with others.
• The game has rules. There are do’s and don’ts for what can be done in negotiation. In some negotiations, these rules are clear; they may even be written in a contract or set of procedures. For example, in your “negotiations” with the Internal Revenue Service each spring, the rules state that you have to report accurately how much income you earned and what you owe the government.

You can’t simply make an opening offer and hope the government accepts it. In other negotiations, the rules are informal and may even be unclear. In this book, we will identify some of the most important informal rules—the do’s and don’ts—that will help you plan your game strategy