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Bill Richardson’s Major Negotiation Lesson

Notes on Negotiation

Written by Marty Latz, Latz Negotiation Institute

Former U.N. Ambassador, U.S. Secretary of Energy, New Mexico Governor, and Member of Congress Bill Richardson recently passed away. Interestingly enough, despite holding all these high-level government positions, he may have been most well-known for his ability as a private sector diplomat to use his considerable negotiation skills to help free U.S. hostages abducted by some of the world’s most brutal dictators.


Few can say they negotiated with Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, North Korea’s Kim Jong-Il and Kim Jong-Un, Cuba’s Fidel Castro and other autocrats – often but not always successfully. As The New York Times noted in its obituary, “[h]is separate humanitarian missions on behalf of some 80 families won the release of hostages and American servicemen in countries hostile to the United States, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Cuba and Colombia.”


So what negotiation strategies and tactics did he use to accomplish this? Here is perhaps his most crucial one, which I noted in my first book Gain the Edge: Negotiating To Get What You Want.


· Research Your Counterpart’s Negotiation Reputation and Tactics

Here is what I wrote back in 2004, after Richardson responded when asked by Fortune magazine to describe the traits of a good negotiator. “’You have to be a good listener. You have to respect the other side’s point of view. You have to know what makes your adversary tick.’ When asked how he prepared for negotiations, he replied, ‘I talk to people who know the guy I will be negotiating with. I talk to scholars, State Department experts, and journalists…. With Castro, I learned that he was always hungry for information about America. Sure enough, he was fascinated with Steve Forbes, fascinated with the congressional budget impasse. He fancies himself an expert on United States politics. With Cedras of Haiti, I learned that he played good cop and that a top general, Philippe Biamby, played bad cop.’”

Latz’s Lesson: Expert negotiator Bill Richardson struck deals with some of the world’s most unsavory characters. How? In part by listening and doing his homework with extensive strategic intelligence gathering.

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Marty Latz is the founder of Latz Negotiation Institute, a national negotiation training and consulting company, and ExpertNegotiator, a Web-based software company that helps managers and negotiators more effectively negotiate and implement best practices based on the experts' proven research. He is also the author of Gain the Edge! Negotiating to Get What You Want (St. Martin’s Press 2004). He can be reached at 480-951-3222 or Latz@ExpertNegotiator.com



ICLEF • Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, Indianapolis, IN • Premier Indiana CLE

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