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Negotiating with Monkeys

Notes On Negotiation

Written by Marty Latz, Latz Negotiation Institute


I am unaware of any research into the negotiating habits of monkeys. But the monkeys in Bali do negotiate – at least with humans – and apparently do it fairly well.


This week’s column is based on BBC Planet Earth’s 3-minute video (here’s the LINK) entitled The Bartering Monkeys of Bali. As you will see in this hilarious video, these monkeys have figured out how to successfully negotiate with the tourists there.


Here are two lessons I gleaned from their negotiations.


1) Figure out what your counterpart values

These monkeys have somehow ascertained what these human tourists care about – which the monkeys then steal. Importantly, the monkeys don’t seem to care about the items they steal. They just want them so they can then “negotiate” for what they really want – food.


2) Learn from your mistakes

The elder monkeys with experience and knowledge of these negotiations have learned not to take the first offer from the humans. Instead, they hold out and get more. The video showed one elder monkey rejecting a banana for the tourist’s cell phone – but then accepting a chocolate bar. This is learned behavior.


Special thanks to my longtime client Valerie Dray, Associate Director of Professional Development at the international law firm Baker Botts, for sending me this video.


Latz’s Lesson:  Monkeys negotiate too, and we can and should learn from them!

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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

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