Don’t dunk on your opponent.
I was reminded of this rule of negotiation last weekend when President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy reached an agreement in principle to raise the nation’s debt limit. Rather than bragging of success, as we too often see in politics today, both used restraint to express their respective views of the outcome. “The agreement represents a compromise, which means not everyone gets what they want,” Biden said. “That’s the responsibility of governing.” McCarthy called the deal “worthy of the American people.”
During my career as an attorney, I learned that communicating respect for the other party is an important factor in successful negotiation. Not only is a collegial relationship necessary for reaching an agreement in the matter at hand, but it’s also essential if you plan to negotiate with the same party in the future. Prosecutors will face off with the same defense attorneys throughout their careers. The knowledge that the current negotiation will not be the last is one of the reasons that the practice of law is far more civil than people might think. What goes around comes around.