Is Negotiation a Lost Art in America?

NegotiationWhether you are buying a house, bidding a project, asking your boss for a raise, or getting your car repaired – everything in life is a negotiation. Yet it wasn’t until a recent family vacation to the Dominican Republic, that I discovered a harsh reality infiltrating our American society. Are Americans losing their art of negotiating?

As my family and I walked along the pristine, turquoise beaches near Punta Cana, we were often interrupted by locals requesting our presence at their shops located along the beaches. Each islander wanted to know if we were American, and when revealed, they were overwhelmed with excitement. We visited their shops and negotiated prices on items before purchasing, and the entire experience got me thinking about how Americans genuinely are not very good at this process.

Rather, Americans are anxious negotiators because they are uncomfortable and want to get out of the situation as soon as possible. This is uncommon in the rest of world where negotiating price is still common-place in society. As anxious negotiators, we have grown to trust that any price or offer is going to be close to the original, and we quickly move to arrange agreements.

Americans do minimal bartering or trading because we live in a very structured and fixed price society with little need to haggle or negotiate. As our society provides more convenience and less face-to-face purchasing transactions (Internet commerce is growing faster than any other market segment in the U.S.), we are growing more distanced from the art of negotiating.

Realizing this, I have personally decided to focus my efforts more on learning the art of negotiation. If you are interested in learning too, below are two books I researched and plan on reading that specialize in this subject:

  • “The Art of Negotiating” by Gerald Nierenberg: In this book, Nierenberg, the world’s foremost authority on negotiating, bases his program on one important premise: negotiation takes place between human beings. In his world-famous seminars, which have been attended by more than 100,000 top executives, he stresses the people skills needed to negotiate successfully in every area of life. This is a classic handbook for anyone interested in convincing or influencing others, by the foremost authority on negotiating.
  •  “The Art of Negotiating: How to Improvise Agreement in a Chaotic World” by Michael Wheeler: This is a more recent book that has a more globally-focused approach. It may help me better understand where we as Americans fit in.

Is the “art of negotiating” a lost art in America or, can we revive it and flourish with the skills once again?