Connections to Experts: Navigating the Negotiation Process
An integral part of the entrepreneurial journey
is knowing how to negotiate a business deal. Deepak Malhotra, the Eli Goldston Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School and a workshop facilitator for EO, shares insights from his new book, “Negotiating the Impossible.”
In your book, you talk about the power of framing, process and empathy. What roles do these factors play in the negotiation process?
DM/ “The first part of my book focuses on the amazing potential of framing. As readers will discover, it is often possible to break deadlock without throwing more money at the table or getting aggressive. Effective negotiators know that how you articulate
or structure your proposals can be as important as what you are proposing. The second part of the book focuses on the decisive role of process in determining outcomes. Crafting the right—or
a more advantageous—process can be more important than bargaining hard on the substance of the deal. Finally, the third part of my book focuses on the tremendous power of empathy. We look closely at how, exactly, a dispassionate and methodical approach to understanding the real interests and perspectives of all the relevant players can help to resolve even the ugliest of conflicts.”
What is the most difficult or interesting negotiation you’ve ever led?
DM/ “The most interesting business negotiations—challenging, but also fun—are when I’m advising small companies (e.g., early stage ventures) who are negotiating with big players for complex or high-stakes strategic deals. As for ‘the most difficult’ negotiations, these are situations where governments are trying to negotiate an end to armed conflicts. There are many parties, a long history of antagonism and grievances, mutual mistrust, and interests that range from economic to political, ideological and even matters of self-identity. And yet, I believe that any problem created by humans can be solved by humans. It may not be solved today. It may not even be possible to solve immediately (or on the timescale of a business deal), but we can be smarter and more effective in how we chart a path that might lead to eventual resolution— or at least to an improved outcome for all.”
Are the negotiation tactics you highlight in your book applicable to everyday life?
DM/ “Negotiation is not about dollars or cents, nor is it about contracts or deal terms. No matter what context you are in, negotiation, fundamentally, is about human interaction. Whether we are negotiating contract provisions or a ceasefire, a higher salary or better legislation, with a customer or with our spouse or children, the question we are trying to answer in negotiation is always the following: How might we engage with other human beings in a way that leads to better understandings and agreements? In my book, I use stories from history, business, sports and elsewhere to highlight ways in which we might engage more effectively, even when things look impossible. My hope is that the principles and strategies I share will help people not only achieve better outcomes professionally, but also personally.”
In 2014, Deepak Malhotra was chosen by Poets & Quants to be among their “40 Under 40,” a listing of the best business school professors in the world. Deepak conducts negotiation training, consulting and advisory work for companies around the world. To learn more, visit