Toddler Negotiating Tips

by Jim Rosenberg

When negotiations broke down, baseball owners and players called in
federal mediators to arbitrate.  They should have called in the most
skilled negotiator on the planet ... the parent of a two-year old.
That's me.  I have learned more about "The Art of The Deal" since David
was born than Donald Trump could ever hope to know.  Now that Marla has
brought The Donald, Jr. into this world, whining and screaming like his
father, maybe Donald, Sr. can spout off about hard bargaining -- after
he's two years old.  What about Chester Karass, the so-called
negotiation "expert" whose glossy advertisements are always featured in
the airline magazines.  I couldn't help but notice that his son is no
longer part of the program.  I'll bet Chester, Jr. whined a little and
got daddy to buy him his own company.  Some negotiator.

My education is incomplete, but here is what I've learned from David in
two years:

Rule #1:  Repetition, Repetition, Repetition.  Repetition is the bread
and butter tactic of a toddler.  It is amazingly effective.  If asked, I
would recommend that baseball owners begin every meeting with Dick
Ravitch saying "Can we have a salary cap?  Can we?  Can we have a salary
cap?  Can we?" and continue until Don Fehr pulls out his remaining few
strands of hair and shouts "Okay, okay, you can have your damn salary
cap, just shut up."  If Fehr does not immediately buckle under, the
owners should employ my son's highly effective "Variations on
Repetitions, by David Rosenberg:"  "Can we have a salary cap?  Can we?
We need a salary cap.  We do.  I see the salary cap over there.  I do.
Here come salary cap!  Here it comes!"  Eventually, this will be
effective, no matter how intransigent your opposition.

Rule #2:  Embarrassment.  My second tip goes to Don Fehr, and it's a
good one.  Victory is yours if you find a way to embarrass the owners
into doing what you want.  This will be trickier for you than for my
son.  You can't simply threaten to wet your pants at the
InterContinental Hotel in midtown Manhattan if the owners refuse to
grant free agency.  However, you can use a simple but absolutely elegant
solution that is too often overlooked ... throw a tantrum.  It is
extremely unsettling to have a business associate crying, stomping his
foot and throwing off all sorts of mucous in the middle of a meeting.
Even if it's the opposition ... it's embarrassing.  If  Fehr can
practice in front of a mirror and get up the nerve, my bet is Ravitch
will knuckle under and say "It's okay, it's okay, we'll get your free
agency."  Those few minutes after the tantrum are often the sweetest --
Ravitch cradling Fehr on his lap and softly stroking his hair.

Rule #3:  Be So Damn Adorable You Can't Help But Give In.  This is going
to be a tough one for Fehr and Ravitch.  I'm trying to picture either of
these two guys making a credible run at adorableness and I just don't
see it happening.  I think Fehr, with those puppy-dog eyes, stands the
best chance.  If he wants to take a shot at it, he should:  (1) smile a
lot, (2) use his "inside voice", (3) tell Ravitch when he needs to use
the potty, and (4) share.  It might work.  If Fehr's cute enough,
Ravitch will say "You've been such a good boy today that we're going to
open up the books and show you how filthy rich we all are!"

Rule #4:  Guilt.  Michael Eisner, CEO of The Disney Corporation, lives
in a house with its own zip code because he knows how to use the power
of guilt to make his company's movies impossible to resist.  My son uses
that same power to make a trip to Wal-Mart unbearable.  "Can we get some
tools for my workshop like cousin Matthew, can we?"  Why of course we
can, I say, because I must be as good a father as Uncle Doug.  Right?
Dick Ravitch has already made a lame attempt at this:  "Can we have a
salary cap like basketball and football, can we?"  That's a good start,
but it lacks the personal emotional content necessary to walk away a
winner.  Dick, try this one, courtesy of my son:  "Can I have a {salary
cap} so I can be a good boy like {NBA Commissioner David Stern} and not
make you mad and {keep my job}, can I?"

Sure, I'm just a backwater hick from North Carolina trying to raise my
little boys and do right.  I'm not a high-priced New York labor lawyer
with an endless supply of time and money to spend.  But I am the father
of a two-year old, and if those baseball boys want to know how to win --
at any cost -- they ought to give me a buzz.  If I'm not in, they can
talk to David.  He's the Idea Man around here anyway.

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