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Key Takeaways

  • Understanding the unique traits that contribute to women’s effectiveness in negotiations, such as empathy and good listening skills, is key. Recognizing both the strengths and potential pitfalls of these traits, and how societal norms influence them, is crucial in negotiation contexts.”
  • It’s important to address the systemic issues within organizations that affect negotiation dynamics rather than trying to fit individuals into existing cultures. This includes understanding how negotiation skills and behaviors are rewarded differently based on gender.”
  • Effectively handling various negotiation tactics and prioritizing relationship-building are fundamental for successful negotiations. Understanding different tactics, from minor tricks to strategic manipulations and significant pressures, and their impact on relationships is vital.
  • Staying abreast of emerging trends like AI integration in negotiation and social media’s influence is essential. It is crucial to recognize the benefits and challenges these technologies bring to negotiation processes, including their impact on confidentiality and control.”
  • Continuous learning, self-reflection, and seeking feedback are crucial for aspiring negotiators. Engaging with others in the field and reflecting on personal negotiation experiences enhances one’s negotiation skills.

Executive Summary:

Hi everyone, welcome back to the NEGOTIATEx podcast. We are continuing our conversation with Maarten van Rossum, head of strategy at &FLUENCE and the author of the book Top Negotiators. In part A, Maarten discussed the importance of understanding human behavior and creativity in high-level negotiations, drawing on his experiences advising Dutch leaders to corporate roles at Heineken. 

Additionally, he emphasized the value of a “corporate diplomat” approach in negotiations, highlighting the need for personalized strategies and profound research in cross-cultural settings. He also advocated for engaging diverse stakeholder views and prioritizing negotiation over legal battles, offering insights into effective corporate and diplomatic negotiation tactics. 

We strongly recommend checking out part A if you haven’t already. Now, without further ado, let’s look at what Maarten shares in part B.

Maarten’s Analysis Of Gender And Negotiation In The Workplace

Maarten discusses the traits that make women effective negotiators, citing a Harvard study that suggests women are better negotiators, particularly when representing others rather than themselves. He attributes this to qualities often associated with femininity, such as empathy, good listening skills, and creativity, which are advantageous in negotiation contexts that are more collaborative than confrontational.

Maarten notes that while these traits are beneficial, there can be downsides, particularly a tendency towards self-diminishment or insecurity, which can be counterproductive in personal negotiations. He believes these traits are more nurtured than inherent, shaped by societal and cultural norms. For example, in Dutch society, which he considers traditional, boys and girls are raised differently, influencing their negotiation styles and confidence levels.

The discussion then moves to organizational culture and the role it plays in negotiation dynamics. Maarten argues that instead of trying to ‘fix’ women to fit into existing negotiation cultures, it’s more effective to address the systemic issues within organizations that hinder women’s negotiation effectiveness. He points out the irony in HR departments, typically staffed by women, negotiating contracts, highlighting a systemic bias in how negotiation skills and behaviors are rewarded differently based on gender.

Lastly, Maarten emphasizes the importance of proactive efforts to address these systemic issues, advocating for a three-pronged approach involving men, organizations, and women. While acknowledging the need to change the system, he stresses that waiting passively for systemic change is ineffective. Instead, active engagement and efforts to challenge and improve the existing dynamics are crucial in closing gender gaps in negotiation and other areas.

A Comprehensive Guide To Managing Tactics And Building Relationships

Moving on, Maarten shares how to handle less savory tactics in negotiations, drawing from his experience in both the public and private sectors.

He explains that there are different categories of negotiation tricks. The first type involves minor tricks at the negotiation table, which are relatively easy to counter. He advises against using these tricks with skilled negotiators as they can lead to annoyance and harm the relationship.

The second category includes more strategic manipulation, such as using deadlines to pressure the other party. Maarten suggests always verifying the legitimacy of deadlines. For example, if a deadline is presented, he recommends challenging it to see if it’s genuine. If the other party is flexible about the deadline, it’s likely that it was not a firm requirement.

The third category involves more significant tactics, such as using media or political pressure in high-stakes negotiations. These methods can be harmful to relationships but may be effective in certain situations. That being said, Maarten warns against overusing these tactics as they can damage a negotiator’s reputation and trustworthiness, especially in smaller communities or industries where people frequently encounter each other.

Additionally, Maarten highlights the importance of relationship-building in negotiation. He shares an experience negotiating with the Mexican government, noting that initially, the negotiation was challenging due to a lack of warmth in the relationship. By focusing on building a rapport and finding common ground, the negotiation phase eventually proceeded smoothly. 

He highlights an instance where, during a follow-up trip, a previously unfriendly counterpart helped him by buying medication when he was ill, illustrating how their relationship had evolved positively.

Future Trends In Negotiation: Maarten’s Insights On AI And Social Media Dynamic

Next, Aram asks Maarten about the current and emerging trends and negotiations that professionals should be aware of. He is particularly interested in understanding these trends in the context of a rapidly evolving global landscape and technological advancements. 

Maarten responds by discussing the use of integrating Artificial Intelligence (AI) in negotiation processes. His team experimented with AI by feeding it a model based on a common negotiation game, observing that AI, like humans, can make errors based on emotion or loss aversion. 

He suggests that while AI can be useful for preparing negotiation strategies, gathering information about a person, or developing speaking notes, it should not be entirely trusted. That’s because AI’s decision-making is still influenced by human input, which can introduce flaws in the negotiation process.

Another significant trend Maarten highlights is the role of social media in negotiations. Unlike in the past, when pressure on a negotiation required involvement from journalists or media, social media now allows for the rapid dissemination of information and the creation of public pressure. While this can be advantageous, it also presents challenges, particularly in terms of maintaining confidentiality and control over the negotiation process.

Maarten emphasizes the importance of a protected space for negotiations. While transparency is crucial, especially in government negotiations, there is also a need for a private space where parties can speak openly without fear of external judgment or interference. 

This confidentiality is not about deceiving the public but about creating a safe environment for open dialogue and effective decision-making.

Maarten’s Reflections On Negotiation Successes And Pitfalls

After that, Maarten reflects on his experiences and lessons learned from both successful and unsuccessful negotiations throughout his career.

He admits that one of his key mistakes has been rushing into deals without fully understanding the other party and emphasizes the importance of taking sufficient time to understand all parties involved. 

Due to the varied interests and pressure levels of different stakeholders, finding the right balance in timing is crucial in negotiations. He notes that his eagerness to close deals quickly has sometimes been a hindrance, although he refrains from citing specific examples, likely due to the sensitive nature of his work.

On the other hand, Maarten takes pride in negotiations where all parties can celebrate a win. He values deals where everyone involved can jointly announce their success to the press, ensuring that each party gains something beneficial. Thus, it fosters a positive outcome for the current negotiation and builds lasting relationships and trust for future dealings.

Maarten also advises against boasting about one’s success in negotiations. He uses the analogy of discussing holiday deals to illustrate how revealing one’s advantageous negotiation results can sour relationships. 

Instead, he recommends giving most of the credit to others and keeping a low profile about one’s achievements in the deal. Marteen strongly believes, this is key to maintaining good relationships and setting the stage for successful future negotiations.

Understanding The Full Cycle Of Negotiation: From Agreement To Implementation

On a similar note, Maarten discusses the complete cycle of negotiation, emphasizing the importance of reaching an agreement and ensuring its proper documentation and implementation.

He highlights three critical phases in negotiation:

#1 Reaching The Deal 

The initial phase is where parties agree on the terms. It’s crucial at this stage to maintain clarity and ensure that everyone understands and agrees on the same points.

#2 Documentation 

After reaching a verbal agreement, the next challenge is accurately documenting it. Maarten notes that many misunderstandings can arise during this phase. People may have different interpretations of what was agreed upon. 

He suggests keeping clear notes during negotiations and agreeing on what has been decided thus far. The mantra “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed” is important, but it’s also useful to have an interim record of agreements to refer back to.

#3 Implementation 

The final phase involves putting the agreement into action. Maarten argues that a negotiated deal is generally preferable to one imposed by a court, as it allows for more flexibility and cooperation between parties. 

During implementation, it’s vital to maintain the same collaborative spirit that prevailed during the negotiation phase. This approach helps in smoothly executing the terms of the agreement and addressing any issues that might arise.

Throughout these phases, Maarten stresses the need for continuous collaboration and mutual understanding. This comprehensive approach ensures not only the successful conclusion of negotiations but also their effective and harmonious implementation, avoiding potential conflicts and misunderstandings.

Essential Advice For Aspiring Professionals

As the episode draws to a close, Maarten offers advice to young professionals aspiring to become effective negotiators.

He highlights the importance of training oneself in negotiation. Marteen parallels negotiation and professions like medicine or woodworking, where extensive learning and practice are crucial. He acknowledges that while experience is valuable, structured training can significantly reduce the number of mistakes made in the learning process. He likens it to driving: obtaining a license is just the beginning, and real skill is developed through actual driving and continual feedback.

Furthermore, Marteen highlights the value of self-reflection and feedback in negotiations. At his company, they use “echo groups” to assess negotiation performance. This process involves asking colleagues for feedback on negotiation strategies and techniques, helping to identify blind spots and improve. Maarten also recounts how discussions with his wife at home have offered him different perspectives, emphasizing the importance of considering external viewpoints.

All in all, Marteen’s key advice is to continually seek feedback and engage with other negotiators or people interested in negotiation. This could be through monthly lunches or informal gatherings where ideas and strategies are shared and critiqued. This practice of ‘mirroring’ oneself against others’ opinions can uncover untapped potential or flaws in one’s negotiation plan.

Marteen, Aram, and Nolan discuss more on this episode of the NEGOTIATEx podcast. Write to us at team@negotiatex.com and share your thoughts on this informational podcast episode. Also, if you enjoyed the episode, we’d be thrilled if you could rate us on Apple Podcasts. Your ratings help us grow and improve.

Thank you for listening! 


Nolan Martin : Hey everyone, thanks for joining us on NEGOTIATEx podcast. We are continuing our conversation with Maarten van Rossum, head of strategy at &fluence. If you haven't already checked out part A of this show, be sure to do that first.

Let's jump into the conversation with Maarten.

Aram Donigian : In your book Top Negotiators, you selected a number of individuals who you deemed kind of worthy of emulation. I'm curious, what can you share about these people? Maybe you should share a story or two. I guess specifically what are the negotiations skills that they as top negotiators regularly display in practice?

From Tribes In Congo To Boardrooms: The Power Of Procedural Solutions In Negotiation (01:17)

Maarten van Rossum : Ooh, now I have to choose between my. No, I think, well by far one of the most interesting people to listen to was General Command, who was a four-star, general Dutch Marine. He's at the UN right now. I asked a lot of people in the Ministry of Defense, so who do we ask? And they all pointed at him. I was like, okay, then that's a telltale. That's talk to him. And during the interview we were only listening and absorbing these really nice stories. Some also really dreadful stories by the way, and we constantly haven't bring it back to, okay, general thanks for this. It's an amazing story, but what negotiation lesson do we get out of this?

And he said, I was never trained to become a negotiator. Maybe naturally maybe good at it if other people tell you to go to me. But I thought that the small things he sometimes did were really in that sense brilliant. For instance, he was sharing a story about two tribes that were competing in Africa in Congo where he was stationed at that time. And it was about the color of they had to paint something in a certain color. I think it was the doors and the color had a political meaning, so they wanted sort of neutral colors, but they were now in a new fight over which color to pick. And he basically came with a procedural solution. And I think those kinds of things, this is Harvard method number four, right? Externalizing the difficult solutions. He basically, but without any training, he said, you know what? Why didn't you guys make a list and you guys make a list of the colors that are acceptable to you? And the first one for go from top to bottom on the list, the first one that we run into, that’s mutual. That's the color we're going to agree to.

So yeah, that's a bit of a gamble of course for the both parties. So they wrote down these colors and they made a choice based on this. So I thought it was at least a very nice one of somebody that says, I was never trained to do proper negotiation, but if the pressure is high enough and the conflict lasts long enough, you get to these kinds of things anyhow if you're creative enough. So the creativity part to me was also a very interesting to see what a few of the people that we interviewed, the prime minister who was at that point, also my boss.

So, I knew him quite well. He says the most important part is courage. And really, I think it's Stephen Covey, you said, seek to understand before seeking to be understood. Really make sure that you understand the other party first and then you can start to download your story on them. But the only way to get to a deal is to really, if it serves both parties really well. And he's known for his deal making skills, so sometimes he just holds phones together. So he flips phones and says, talk to each other, right? He literally does that, making sure he brings people together under his, of course, with a bit of power of the prime minister basically saying at this point, we need a deal. So talk to each other and making that extra maybe use this phone call is super helpful in building those relations.

So those are the things that I really remember from his interview. Anything equal 20 seconds of courage. I don’t know where the 20 seconds came from, but sometimes you just have to be very courageous and do something that at that point might sound a little bit weird, but do it or ask for it and make sure that yeah, what you want is basically on the table at the right time.

And one lesson that I found really interesting, you said, I was part of the deputy chair of the Dutch jury for the National Negotiation Prize, and this year Feike Sijbesma, who was the former CEO of DSM, which is a big, well, first it was the state mines and then it became a chemical company and now it's the food company mostly they're also very active in the US also on bio diesel and nutrition. And he was negotiating with an American firm at a certain point, and the CEO comes in. That's either the point where you're going to break the deal or you're going to sign the deal, right?

But there was still a lot of room left and there was a lot of unclarities. And he saw, he was flown in to get to the point where the deal would be signed, but he also saw probably never going to make it, we're too far apart still. And he shared his story in public, so I think I can reshare it. He was sitting at the table at his side with the table and then at the other side was the American company. And they were going back and forth, a very unproductive conversation and just basically repeating what they were saying instead of entering into a dialogue.

And then at a certain point, and here's where the courage comes in, Feike took up his chair and walked to the other side and put his chair next to the CEO of the American company and sat next to him, which is a bit of an unexpected move probably for the others. And so he said, yeah, Mr. I don’t know what his name was. I'm quite useless on that side of the table. So I thought, let me sit here and listen in. I hear you say this. And then he basically repeated from his perspective all the points that CEO just made. So he was really going into the skin of that CEO. And he said what that did is that that CEO saw that I understood him, but there was still some stuff that we also, he already should also understand us.

So, he sat there for about 20 minutes and of course it creates a completely different dynamic of course. So a lot of jokes and the relation went up quite quickly. And then they moved back and came to the deal quite quickly as well because basically he said to me that he said, I'm guessing still, but I think the key was that I sat there, I said next to him, physically next to him saying, I understand what you're saying, but we still have to move forward together. So how can we move forward together? And yeah, that I love those kind of stories and negotiations because this is actually where the courage comes in, right? People can say, you need courage, but okay, what does that look like? It looks like this, I think.

AD : That's a wonderful illustration. Now half of the folks in your book are women, and earlier you said women make the best negotiators. Can you expand on that? Why do you believe that's so, and what do we as three white men. Well, all middle-aged, what do we need to be learning from our women counterparts and partners?

Traits for Successful Negotiation And Documented Success Of Women In Negotiation (07:11)

MvR : What can we as men learn from the women? No, I think, well first of all, it's a Harvard study. It's not me, I'm just reproducing basically what they found. But we use it a lot here in the Netherlands and the full result is women are better negotiators, but not for themselves. And I think if you translate it into sort of energy that people have, I think people with a lot of, let's say feminine energy are better negotiators than typical masculine or male energy. I don’t know how to translate that well.

So, basically if you have a lot of empathy, if you have good listening skills, if you have a lot of creativity in you, all those kinds of things are really helpful, if you negotiate the way we all negotiate, which is not an arm wrestling match, you make it into an arm wrestling match, my gain is your loss. Of course then probably men are classically better at it because ultimately we start to fight and fighting is more their masculine trade of course.

But what I see is the creativity part to me and the really understanding part is really on your question, what can we learn? I think that is a part where what we can learn, but also sometimes the courage part, it displays a little bit different maybe every now and again. But the courageous part is also a key thing. I think any negotiator should adapt. And of course making yourself smaller and saying, I don't deserve this, or the other party will probably do this, this and this. That I think is a downside of feminine traits in negotiation. And that's I think what explains the comma in the line, better negotiators, not just for themselves. Because if you go to the table and they say, what I'm going to ask, I don't deserve this or what I'm going to ask, maybe other people are better, sort of the insecurity isn't helpful to anyone. So I think that part is the part where we really put a lot of, I don't think it's nature to be honest. I think it's nurture in a lot of systems, at least in Dutch society, everybody talks about how progressive we are. I think we're really traditional here. Our girls, we bring them up differently than our boys. And if you're a boy and you're a little bit, you have a big mouth, it seems, oh wow, look at him, he's a good kid. If girls do that, we appreciate that differently.

And I think it starts there and then goes all the way up until, if I, well not me, but if I as a father, I don’t know, I've seen ambulance, I tell my son, Hey son, look an ambulance. And I don't grab my daughter and say, Hey girl, look at that, there's an ambulance. So it's also the choices you make as fathers and as mothers, but also the choices you make in the school system all the way up until the first jobs and the first contracts, they're going to negotiate. And this is where, to me, the interesting difference comes in because if they start to negotiate contracts on behalf of someone else, I mean that's a different story, right?

So we always tell the people basically, we shouldn't fix the women in this part. But it really helps if you externalize yourself so you have yourself and then negotiating yourself. So if you negotiate, there's a few tips we can give you, but they're basically good for everybody. But we really want to talk to the organizations and the men involved because everybody has to negotiate in a culture. And if the culture that you're negotiating in is not fit for women or not made for women, then as an organization you should maybe think about flipping that too.

And what role can men play in that. And then I always end up with a sort of a joke at the end because it's interesting to see that most HR departments here in the Netherlands, the big majority is women who work, who negotiate with the new men and women that want to join the firm. So the rest of the joke I won’t make, but it's really key that you see it's a systemic thing. It's the organization that chooses to reward certain negotiation behavior and what they don't reward. And to me that's the illustration of women of the HR department. Negotiating with new women is a weird one. So here they're really good in negotiating because they can externalize themselves is not for them. But here it's difficult. So there to me lies a bit of maybe the key to unlocking more value there.

AD : It's a deep answer there in terms of societal and then organizational and then personal dynamics occurring.

MvR : And I like this is also what we try to help people with. And even though I agree with you, you shouldn't fix the women, you should fix the system. What we try to do is we look at the three, so the men, the organization and the women. And with those three, we can try to, I don't know, close gender pay gaps or visibility gaps or whatever. But I do tell people, well I don't agree with don't fix the system as a dynamics for not doing anything. But I have never seen the system change by me sitting on the couch waiting like this for the system to change.

So you should at least do something, this is my, and a lot of the people that work here, our let's say thing that we can do to change the system and maybe it's not the right one. Let's talk about it, let's disagree and let's find a better way. But not doing anything and saying, well I shouldn't fix the women, fix the system and then sit on your couch and do nothing to me has a bit of a comfortable way of not doing anything.

NM : So having worked both in the public sector and private sector, I'm sure you've seen your fair share of dirty tricks and hard bargains. How do you handle counterparts that are disrupting the negotiation through less than savory tactics?

Deadline Games And Manipulation: Recognizing, Implementing, And Strategizing Power Plays In Fair Negotiation (12:21)

MvR : Yeah, I think it depends on the tricks. If they're small tricks, let's say we tell people, when we train people, we tell people, we're not training you on the dirty tricks, but we show them to you because we want you to recognize them and here's what you can do against them. So if it's debts, let's say the tricks at the table, they're so easy to counter. We always tell people with skilled negotiators, , don't even try with skilled negotiators, it'll only lead to irritation, is that a good English word? Annoyance in the relation, so don't even try it, it's a waste of time.

And then there's two other categories of tricks. I think. One is when you use tricks to manipulate and in a fair way, I mean I can manipulate a lot with, when we talk about stuff, when do I come back to you taking a lot of time for example, those kind of tricks. Sometimes they're justified, but the first time I always do is a deadline check, right? You give me a deadline and I always say, Ooh, that's hard Nolan, because I still have to talk to Aram and I only see him next week on Thursday, so I can't work with your deadline of Monday.

And if you then say, oh, well okay fine, talk to Aram first. Well then I know your deadline was fake, right? So it's these little tricks at the table. I always say, see if they're justified, it can be a deadline that you have to work with, but if they're not, then at least there's some smart tricks with which you can challenge those span of dynamics or deadlines. So that's one.

And then the other is of course the big tricks in, but that's sometimes because we are part of big public negotiations or negotiations where journalists really want to know what's going on there. If you then use media for example, or all kind of ways to put pressure or you get, I don't know, parliamentarians or ministers or high ranking civil servants all of a sudden picking up the phone, putting a lot of pressure on the other side. Those are of course tricks that are really harmful for the relation, but sometimes can flip the table immediately and all of a sudden you're in a losing streak.

Well, I tell people there's one thing you have as a negotiator, which is your image, your reliability. You don't want to play around with that too often because people will hold it against you for a long time. And especially like us as professional negotiators, if you negotiate once at this table and the next time you run into the same, and this is a small country, if you run into the same people again or people do their research on you and like, oh, that's the guy that pulled the trick in the other negotiation, that's a trust issue.

And we also, again here the answer to me is also relation. Really making sure that through the relation and even I did a few big negotiations. One was with the Mexican government and it was stone cold in the beginning and there were virtual negotiations. So the first thing I did was really work on the relation and sort of getting the temperature below above, what is it freezing, thirty two, thirty two Fahrenheit, we call it zero here. But getting the temperature back to normal and with that building a relation and finding that unity that Cialdini always talks about, so how can we solve this problem together? Took us months.

And then the deal phase went quite quickly ultimately because we had a good relation, but also make sure you don't jump in, find something common to work on, show interest in the other person. And it ultimately resulted two years later, one of the parts of the deal that we had to travel up and down to look at implementation. And during the first trip I shook hands with this person that didn't come across as very friendly in the beginning. So we had an all joint program and was also to make sure that we would keep this formulation because we needed each other for the implementation.

But the second evening I ate something bad, I had a bad night let's say, and the next morning this person, he said, you know what, let me stop by pharmacy. He got me medication, he got me the special water you guys have there. And we made pictures of us standing together on a village square. It was hilarious. So that story, I always try to say if I just started to negotiate with that person without first de-icing, let's say the relation, I would probably still negotiating with them. To me that's still, that picture of us standing together is still, well I keep it to myself but it's still a very nice picture.

AD : That's a nice illustration. In your opinion, what are some of the emerging trends and negotiations that professionals should be aware of, especially in the context of both a rapidly changing global landscape as well as changes in technology.

AI As A Negotiation Partner? Uncovering The Limits of Machine Intelligence In Deal-Making (16:43)

MvR : Yeah to me? So we are working a bit with AI currently here at the office also trying to understand how AI can be helpful. So we fed, I don't know by which name, you know the game, but it's basically the oil pricing game, the X and Y game, the win all you cam game. That model we fed into AI and started negotiating with let's say the computer as grandfather here says, and we saw that it basically takes the wrong exits as well, like humans do based on emotion, based on loss aversion, it takes wrong exits there as well.

So, we now illustrate that every now and again basically use AI to prepare your strategy to know all about a person to prepare, I don't know, speaking notes for the people that you need, prepare for your stakeholder engagement, maybe use AI but don't trust AI because AI is still based on a lot of human input and I think we all know that on human input is where negotiations sometimes really go wrong.

So that's one, I think it's not a new trend, but the way social media can be used to, well let's say back in the day you needed a proper journalist or a proper TV show or whatever to create pressure on table, we always say there's pressure at the table and there's pressure on the table. So to create pressure on the table, you needed external people and you needed to convince them. And there was a risk of course there as well. Now that goes so quickly and people might have an opinion on it, but you can also use it to your advantage. So there's ups and downs I think to the use of social media, but it's not, so sometimes negotiations need a bit of int-transparency, is that a word? Where a closed room where you can let the process have its own dynamics and yeah, it's disturbed by the external world.

And now it sounds like I'm a proponent of not working, transparently I’m not. I think there's a lot of, especially in governments, it's good to have some transparency vis-a-vis the society you're working for. But yeah, I always joke if we need to organize a party and Aram and I want to work together, we don't want you in Nolan and we're going to write that all in a newspaper, in two seconds we have in gigantic fight in this group, so sometimes need that protection of we can say a lot to each other and it won't go out of this room.

And that's not in-transparent like, oh big system, we try to screw over society. That's not what it is. It's more like we as people, we need some protection to open up to each other. And if we would've done the negotiations I was just referring to in Mexico, we would've done them with two Julius sitting next to us, then it's hard to create something together with which you can make the bent, sell the win and also sell the loss or absorb the loss together.

AD : It reminds me of that concept of back channel negotiations, of being able to have the freedom to say things that need to get said so that we can work towards a solution. And of course it makes me think about so many of the diplomatic challenges we're seeing today globally, Ukraine, Russia, Israel, Palestine, and some conversations are going to need to happen with a little less transparency and that is really hard given the challenges you're talking about.

From Cuba To Countryside: Lessons On High-Stakes Negotiation (19:39)

MvR : No, I agree. I think wasn't it the Cuba crisis that was sold by two second secretaries of the embassies in Turkey, if I remember correctly. But I think you should also create these spaces here in the Netherlands we were part of, we guided the negotiations on the agricultural accord, which was basically we are a very densely populated country. We need to make some very hard choices in how we want to do our agriculture. We are after the United States, we're the second largest agricultural exporter in the world. So it's a lot of agriculture. We're a very small country, so we needed to find a way to move forward.

And there we, let's say the starting point of those conversations was very angry farmers, new farmer groups, let's say they were not a traditional farmer representative, but also new ones that were very, let's say militant maybe or aggressive or blocking highways and getting their way with their big tractors and getting a sympathy vote of the people. These were the people that feed us. And then getting the industry, the banks, everybody should be around the table under the guidance of the ministry of agriculture. And there we also needed to find, because the press was constantly chasing the group.

So we just ask a few farmers, Hey, can we come to your farm in, I don't know, four hours and please keep this quiet. So we had all these secret locations, there were just big farms that we knew had some place to host a group and there we could have these negotiations in a relatively safe environment for the people. Then there was always one joker who then called like we're this farm right now. And then the media would come and then that is the point where we also saw maybe it's going too well at the table and then people at the tables and they don't always have an interest in getting a deal. So they would call and then bush that round was blown up.

NM : So looking back on your career so far, what's one negotiation failure that you learned the most from? And also on the other side of that coin, what is one negotiation success that you're most proud of?

The Gift Of Shared Celebration: Building Trust And Lasting Relationships Through Collective Wins (21:44)

MvR : Yeah, well I think there's a lot of mistakes that I made and I'm a bit of a, I like to make deals, I love deal making, so sometimes I go in too quickly and I think really first understanding the other party really well, you should really take time for that. And sometimes I skip that phase or I just do it in not enough time. Let's say taking for that phase and especially here in The Hague, that sometimes is killing and the Hague, I mean in the government, the top of the government, it used to sometimes take time, but yeah, people feel pressured. Not everybody has their interest aligned. So some people want to go quick and others want to stall. So taking the right amount of time there is key. I find it hard to name examples because of the work I did. It's more of a general lesson I think. And it's also something, it says something about Me, I want to go too quickly every now and then.

And the same I think goes for success. I like the negotiations best where people all come out celebrating themselves and the others as winners where you actually sit at the end and really say, okay, this is our joint line to take in the press. I give you something, I give Nolan something, I give Aram something, we're all winners in this deal. Those are the ones that I like best and that's what I take extra care of. Getting your internal external stakeholders aligned and making sure no one loses in the deal.

And then also not brag about it. I'd be silent about it forever at that point because I always joke like if you both booked a holiday at, I don't know booking or something, and we're in this beach in Florida together and I tell you I paid only $400 for this and you pay $1,200, guess what? You're not going to have this fun holiday. So I find it quite, let's say unwise to talk about your negotiation results alone. So if it's together with the group that can celebrate the success, go for it. But alone, never take too much credit for the deal and give most credit to the others because probably you're going to negotiate with them quite soon again.

AD : I appreciate your willingness to share that. We try to soften you up over the course of the program to be able to ask the vulnerable question where you made mistakes. I think that deal making mindset is something that many of us are guilty of. We feel the pressure to rush towards a deal, sometimes rush to failure, taking that time the right amount of time to understand.

And then something you mentioned earlier that I thought of too was that hey, an implementation is going to be pretty important too. My job doesn't end just because the deal got done, okay, we still have to implement this thing and if I haven't created the conditions through how we negotiate to make that happen, I'm buying myself trouble down the road.

Negotiation's Full Cycle: From Initial Understanding To Smooth Implementation And Beyond (24:21)

MvR : I think there's three phases. So one is the deal like okay, we get it now. Okay, perfect, then people have to write it down and that's where a lot of things still go wrong. Well I meant this, well I know I meant this, right? So what I always try to do is basically say, let's keep clear notes during the negotiation and of course nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, but let's at least agree on what we now agreed on and you can always come back to it, it's fine, but then we don't get to this so that you at least have something to an anchor to fall back to. So that's the second phase.

And then there's the implementation and yeah, I always say it's better to have a negotiated deal than a deal that was given to you by court basically. But in both instances people might try to find some extra room and yeah, there you need to be still in this joint. Let's not make our lives difficult mindsets together, making sure that you work diligently towards, in the same mindset with which you made the deal.

AD : Maarten, as we prepare to conclude here, what final piece of advice or key takeaway would you leave with a listener who's a young professional and aspiring to become a more effective negotiator?

Negotiation As A Skill: Lessons In Developing Competence And Avoiding Mistakes (25:30)

MvR : Train yourself. To me, you can go to a beautiful business school somewhere in the US. No, but really to me, so I think you have skills, professions, I don't know a doctor or a woodworker, you really have to learn that, right? And of course you can learn to become a negotiator by experience. Like I was just saying about the general or the prime minister who never, they said, I never did any negotiation course, so what are you asking me? So of course there's, but I think you can gigantically save on the amount of mistakes that you made during this process by really properly training yourself upfront and after training. It's like driving a car, right? If you have your driver's license, you're sort of able to drive, but then you learn it in real traffic. And then every now and again also ask other people, do you like my driving?

So what I like about our company here is if we do really difficult negotiation, we form these echo groups we call them, where we basically say, okay, how do you think I'm doing? Because we call it belief in your own position in Dutch shows, if I tell you 10 times that I want to sell you this phone and I don't know, it's 500 euros. After the 10th time I said this to myself, I'm really believing in this fact. So my position, I really start to believe in my own position and I always had very clear conversation with my wife at home where she was really, did you just do this, you're a bully, you shouldn't do this.

And it really gives you a different perspective and as the deal becomes more complex, talking to other negotiators, maybe also forming, I think that for your students Aram, it's great to form a resource group. I don't know, have this monthly lunch together or this breakfast at your office where you have other people that like negotiations or just have an opinion. Just mirror yourself if that's English, mirror yourself with them and saying, this is my plan, this is what I'm doing. And then they would say, Hey, but there's untapped potential here. Or maybe have you considered this? Or this is a really bad plan to make sure that you keep freshening yourself up also during negotiation setting.

AD : Yeah, I love that response and I love the comparison. You made it a couple times where it is a craft, it's a skill. I can cut pieces of wood that does not make me a craftsman or a carpenter. It takes to skill. I can read the law that does not make me a lawyer. It does take this practice and preparation, the intentionality you're talking about. So thank you for that. Thank you for all the insights today. It's been a wonderful discussion, Maarten, really appreciate you joining us from across the pond.

MvR : Yeah, no thanks. And again, thanks for waking up so early. I really enjoyed the conversation and I will make everybody here in the Netherlands subscribe to NEGOTIATEx . I think it's insightful. So looking forward to conversation soon. And whenever you're here in the Netherlands, you know where to find us. We have a really good cappuccino and espresso here.

AD : We will do that.

MvR : Great.

NM : Yep. Thanks Maarten for joining us and that is it for us on today's podcast. If you haven't already, please rate review and subscribe to the NEGOTIATEx podcast and we'll see you in the next one.

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