Negotiating with Sharks

Bill Richardson has learned a thing or two about negotiations. The former New Mexico governor, ambassador, cabinet member and congressman has also served as a special envoy on sensitive international missions, winning the release of hostages, American service members and prisoners in North Korea, Iraq, Cuba and Sudan. His colleagues actually dubbed him “undersecretary of thugs,” he says, “because I had so many human rights abusers on speed dial.”

In his new book, How to Sweet-Talk a Shark (Rodale), Richardson shares negotiation insights and strategies. “In business and diplomacy, negotiation is about finding a way to connect with the other person,” he says.

A few of his negotiating rules:

Learn everything you can about your negotiating partner.

Bring a thoughtful gift that shows you’ve done your homework.

Remember that a negotiation—big or small—should be the meeting of two equal parties who have equal power to say yes or no. Say you’re meeting with the boss. Even though he or she has more [absolute] power at the office, in a [personal] negotiation, say over a raise, you both have equal power to say yes or no to the terms on the table. He or she can’t make you accept what’s being offered. It’s just as much your decision as it is their prerogative to make an offer acceptable to you.

Be conscious of the other person’s culture.

Never threaten or promise what you can’t deliver.

Let the person vent as long as he or she doesn’t rant.

Share the credit.

Richardson’s Recent Reads

The New Digital Age by Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

The English Girl by Daniel Silva


Jessica Krampe is the digital managing editor for A graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism, Jessica has worked for news, entertainment, business and lifestyle publications. Outside of the daily grind, she enjoys happy hours, live music and traveling.

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