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Negotiation Lessons from United States Senators Joe Manchin & Jon Ky

Notes on Negotiation

Written by Marty Latz, Latz Negotiation Institute

A number of years ago I wrote about the negotiation strategies of U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) and former Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ). Given that Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) are THE key holdouts/negotiators concerning the almost $2 trillion “Build Back Better” social policy bill now on the table in congress, I thought it made sense to share it again. Here it is. I was recently in the Washington, D.C. airport waiting to return home when I noticed former U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) nearby. Since he had enjoyed an excellent reputation as a dealmaker in his many years in the U.S. Senate and House, I asked him to share his negotiation “pearls of wisdom.” Fortuitously, in the middle of our conversation we were joined by former West Virginia Governor and current U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV). So, I asked him to also share his negotiation lessons. Here they are, with my insights sprinkled in.

Former Sen. Jon Kyl

  • Get “good intel” and develop a plan in advance. You need information to start.

    • (This is aligned with my first Golden Rule of Negotiation – Information is Power-So Get It! A big part of this is strategic planning, which partially involves getting intelligence about what strategies your counterparts have used in the past.)

  • You need to “get trust with the other side.”

  • Find out your counterpart’s hot buttons and what drives them.

  • Do what works best for you, but it usually “doesn’t pay to be a jerk.”

  • Be wary of those always asking for “one more thing.” If they do, say no.

    • (We call these “nibblers” in the negotiation world – and recommend either walking away, as Sen. Kyl recommends, or reopening the negotiation and putting a previously agreed upon issue back on the table. Otherwise, they will keep on nibbling.)

  • “Everyone needs something out of it [the negotiation].”

  • “Take what you can” and don’t hold out for everything. Or you may get nothing.

    • Sen. Kyl pointed to one of the best negotiators he has ever known – former Sen. Ted Kennedy – as always willing to take something instead of nothing. Kyl said Kennedy would take “30% here, and 80% here – and it would all add up.”

  • Your ability to walk away from a deal is crucial.

    • (This is aligned with my second Golden Rule of Negotiation – Maximize Your Leverage. Leverage is fundamentally dependent on what will happen if you walk away. The better your walkaway – or Plan B – the stronger your leverage. And vice versa.)

  • It usually doesn’t pay to bluff. Sen. Kyl recalled former Sen. Phil Gramm (R-TX) once telling him, “Never take a hostage if you’re not willing to shoot.”

  • Relationships matter. “You have to walk together if you want to get anything done.”

Sen. Joe Manchin

  • “First build the relationships.”

  • Trust is crucial.

  • Never put your colleagues in an embarrassing position. They need something out of it too.

  • “Leave a little meat on the bone for the next dog,” Sen. Manchin recalled his “granddaddy telling me.”

  • Agreements shouldn’t be too one-sided. Sen. Kyl also noted that if you drive too hard, the other side might not even be able to perform.

  • Beware of personalities [and egos] messing up deals. Sen. Manchin recalled a negotiation between the Teamsters and a company when he was governor, and he was asked to help resolve an impasse. He said he immediately recognized that the contested issue – while relatively minor – had become a big problem because of two personalities in the room. Each had become personally vested in winning that issue – and neither would give the other side a win. What did Manchin do? He asked the two individuals at loggerheads to leave the room. The rest of the parties quickly resolved the issue.

Latz’s Lesson: Trust. Relationships. Planning. Mutual interests. Professionalism. Credibility. These negotiation strategies work in politics, business and, of course, in life.


Marty will be here Wednesday, December 22 presenting his very popular seminar Gain the Edge! Negotiating to Get What You Want. Join us Live In-Person or via Live Webcast.


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


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