Engaging in the art of negotiation

Jawad Anani.pg
Jawad Anani is an economist, and has held several ministerial posts, including former deputy prime minister and former chief of the Royal Court.
One of the skills which is gradually eroding in Jordan is that of negotiation. How many examples can a dedicated analyst find in the Jordan archives of agreements signed and fraught, in hindsight, with sloppy oversights and unfair sticky commitments? These include many energy deals including the energy for water deal with Israel, the Association Agreement with the EU, free trade agreements with some countries, including the one signed with Turkey and aborted in 2020.اضافة اعلان

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In the early 1990s, I participated actively in the track two of negotiations held at, or arranged by, leading American universities such as Harvard and the University of California in Los Angeles.

These negotiations enabled me to know closely some of the leading business, law and economics professors in the world. The honor list include Stanley Fisher, Frank Fisher, Henry Rosovsky, Don Patinkin, Jacob Frankel, Joseph Stiglitz, etc. Yet, the two who I kept as friends were the late Howard Raiffa, a leading negotiations expert and author, and James K. Sebenius, professor of business administration and the director of the Program on Negotiation (PON) at Harvard.

It was April 2003 when seven professors from Harvard met (including Raiffa and Sebenius) and decided to create PON in order to teach the art of negotiation.

Professor Sebenius also moderated a lecture which I delivered at PON, titled “25 years after Jordan/Israel Peace Treaty”. He gave me a copy of his book on his mentor, icon of political negotiation, Henry Kissinger.

Professor Raiffa, who died in 2016, gifted me with copies of his manuals on negotiations.

Sipping coffee in his office in 1996, he told me that the best way to learn how to negotiate was to observe a child demanding that his mother buy him something he knew in advance she would not. The child uses every negotiation trick in the book, from explaining to arguing, shouting, pleading, kicking the floor, weeping, begging, breaking a glass or two and making noises just to spite his helpless mother.

One of the best books that gained popularity is titled “Getting to Yes” authored by one of the PON founders, Roger Fisher, and William Ury (the book originally published in 1981 and has been reprinted many times since).

Another book which I liked a lot recently, “Never Split the Difference”, was published originally in 2016 and authored by Christopher Voss and Tahl Raz. The book’s main theme is explained by its full title, which reads “Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on It”.

Negotiation is an interdisciplinary program. It should include in its roster professionals like lawyers, psychologists, economists, business administrators and a specialist in kinesics (the interpretation of body motion such as facial expressions and gestures).

Are we, in Jordan, willing and ready to give this skill a greater attention? I believe that we should select a group of potentially adept negotiators train them at home and then send them abroad to learn all the various skills which a successful negotiator requires, and create a team which will take part in, monitor, evaluate and approve any agreement or treaty which Jordan intends to enter into.

We also need to create such a center in cooperation with Harvard’s PON and entrust it with the responsibility of teaching the badly needed skill of negotiation.

Jordan is on the threshold of making many deals. No oops, wows, or “I forgot” excuses should ever be accepted in our forthcoming major deals, at the sovereign level in particular.

The Writer is an economist, and has held several ministerial posts, including former deputy prime minister and former chief of the Royal Court.

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