The Power of Understanding

Increasing Negotiation and Leadership Performance through the Power of Understanding

48 Laws of Power for 21st Century Global Negotiators

By Karen S. Walch, Ph.D.

Classical thinkers such as Machiavelli, Sun Tzu and von Clausewitz recommend stealth, deception and “total absence of mercy” in negotiation. That’s what historian Robert Greene concludes in The 48 Laws of Power (Viking Press, 1998). But as a professor of cross-cultural negotiation at Thunderbird, I have observed a different set of laws for 21st century negotiators who live and work in a global economy.

My quest to understand these laws started decades ago, when I blissfully searched through graduate school catalogues to find a social science program to educate me on the nature of power. I wanted to sharpen my understanding of the sources and practices of power in international relations, but more specifically I wanted to develop my skills as a negotiator and diplomat.

It turns out that political science is the discipline dedicated to the art and practice of power. So I “learned by going where I had to go,” as the poet Theodore Roethke puts it, and became a political science doctoral candidate.

I immersed myself in the writings of Italian philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli, Chinese warrior Sun Tzu, Prussian military strategist Carl von Clausewitz and other historical figures who studied the best ways to crush an opponent.

In addition to my classical study of power, I have decades of daily observation in the classroom and the corporate world about the practice of power in global negotiations.

The two sources of information do not always agree on the best way to achieve success. Greene’s book is a fun read and brilliant satire, but it provides little practical utility for global negotiators in the 21st century.

Many of the rules to win that Greene espouses appear worn out and generalized about a time before global and social interdependency and mechanisms for justice became fundamental components in the world economy.

Twenty-first century negotiators need a new system of rules that work in the context of globalization.

In negotiations where the outcomes are a matter of national or personal security, the “ruthless, selfish, manipulative, deceitful, duplicitous tools used by the royal courtiers” may continue to serve as rules to live by.

But in other situations where social, political and economic problems are the result of complex relationships that only can be solved by understanding the other side, negotiators must apply a different set of rules to produce more sustainable, prosperous and satisfying agreements.

Starting in September, I began a 48-week journey to explore some of these new laws of power for 21st century global negotiators. Each week in the World Café, my blog on the Thunderbird Knowledge Network, I address one of the laws and provide an exercise to identify and enhance your own negotiation power.

These laws dismantle much of the negative mythology that surrounds negotiation power in our vocabulary today. They highlight common power problems and suggest practical ways to solve them.

If you are ready to dive in, please join the conversation. Your comments are welcome.

Law 1: Start Where You Are

Law 2: Choose a Power Performance PresenceLaw 3: Embrace the Left and Right BrainLaw 4: Master Your Psychology Law 5: Practice Emotional IntelligenceLaw 6:Quarantine Against InfectionLaw 7: Invest in Social CapitalLaw 8: Develop Social IntelligenceLaw 9: Practice Cultural Gap AnalysisLaw 10: Improve Strategic LeverageLaw 11: Enhance Intelligence CollectionLaw 12: Perfect Elicitation StrategiesLaw 13: Improve the Past GracefullyLaw 14: Spot a Paradigm Shift

Law 15: Invest in Self-InterestLaw 16: Protect Self-InterestLaw 17: Uncover Self-InterestLaw 18: Master Self-InterestLaw 19: Trust Self-InterestLaw 20: Re-define Self-Interest

Law 21: Reengineer TacticsLaw 22: Respond to TacticsLaw 23: Identify Narcissists’ TacticsLaw 24: Adopt Aikido TacticsLaw 25: Train Mental TacticsLaw 26:Practice Counter TacticsLaw 27: Define Shapeshifting TacticsLaw 28: Explore Forgiveness Tactics

Law 29: Maximize Your LeverageLaw 30: Leverage Negotiation BasicsLaw 31: Leverage Social Engagement SkillsLaw 32: Acquire Power and Leverage | Law 33 | Law 34 | Law 35 | Law 36 | Law 37 | Law 38 | Law 39 | Law 40 | Law 41 | Law 42 | Law 43 | Law 44 | Law 45 | Law 46 | Law 47 | Law 48