What Donald Trump Can Learn About Negotiations

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If there’s one thing Donald Trump seems to be most proud of, it’s his ability to make deals.

If there’s one thing Donald Trump seems to be most proud of, it’s his ability to make deals, huge deals, and come out a winner. And on the campaign trail, this deal-making skill is one of the reasons he gives for why he would make a great president.

But not everyone's convinced.

"There is a difference between negotiating a business deal and negotiating an armed conflict or a peace deal," said Harvard Business School professor Deepak Malhotra.

Malhotra wrote an article for the Harvard Business Review explaining why Trump's negotiation style might not work in the Oval Office.

Malhotra, who also advises businesses and governments dealing with high stakes disputes, spoke to Money Talking host Charlie Herman about what negotiating skills the next president of the United States should have, and what makes a good negotiator in general.

Here are some of his suggestions:

1. Negotiation is about achieving your objectives. It's not about winning and it's not about compromising — it's about collaborating with the other side and figuring out how to knock down all the barriers standing in the way of a deal.

2. Study historically significant negotiations, like the Cuban Missile Crisis. Maholtra said every aspiring business and political leader stands to learn from the negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union in 1962. "It's [hard] to find a negotiation that had higher stakes," he said. While there was pressure to solve the problem solely through an aggressive military approach, the Kennedy administration charted a nuanced path that involved taking the other side's perspective into account. 

3. Empathy isn't weakness. The more you empathize with the other side, the more options you make for yourself.

4. Don't let toughness be your only strategy. While there's room for toughness, don't let aggression crowd out other options.

5. Walk in with a learning mindset. Work to understand the interests and perspectives of all the involved parties.

6. Be flexible. Know where you need to get, but be flexible about how to get there.

7. Don't put people in a corner. If you make the other side chose between doing what's smart and doing what makes them save face, you create a barrier to achieving your objective. Malhotra said you should get into the habit of writing the other side's victory speech for them — that will help get to a place where both sides can claim a "win."

8. Remember, negotiation is always about human interaction. "The question we're always trying to answer is the same," said Malhotra. "How do we engage with other human beings in such a way as to achieve better understandings and better agreements?"

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