Negotiations, Trust, and Hostages

By Christine Moore & Deepali Ramaiah

Courtesy: Soumya Sivadas
Courtesy: Soumya Sivadas

Last weekend, Thunderbird played host to the guests from around the world for the inaugural Global Summit on Negotiations & Trust. The event was well attended by professionals, students, and T-birds who learned how to sharpen their negotiation skills by building trust within the negotiation process. The summit, meant to place emphasis on communications, also delved into negotiations tactics in real life, be it for business transactions, disputes in personal and professional lives among other high-involvement situations. Presenters discussed the various aspects of building trust by first establishing rapport with their counterpart. The four-day event hosted esteemed like keynote speakers Steven Covey, of Franklin Covey fame, and New York Times bestseller Dr. Robert Cialdini who spoke about speed of trust and the ethics of negotiation power. They were two among an exhaustive list of professors, industry leaders and experts that were speaking at the event; they comprised some of the finest minds available redefining the disciplines of negotiation, conflict resolution, trust, behavioral economics, contract, and collaboration theory.

One of the most prominent speakers at the Global Summit on Negotiation and Trust was Chris Voss, a Georgetown University business professor. He convinced the group to be prepared by showing a clip of his disheveled hair on the Anderson Cooper show, taught about the “Chris discount”, and the importance of introducing yourself first to build trust. Mr. Voss’ also has extensive FBI experience covering scenarios like negotiating with kidnappers as well as dealing with hostage situations. Speaking of the importance of tackling negatives, he said his first priority would be to tackle them first and head on at the start of any negotiations. He added that the need was to “display empathy for adversaries as well as recognize the 800 pound gorilla in the room” especially since negatives are always stacked really high in negotiation situations. By addressing the negatives early on, one can get them acknowledged and addressed so as to remove the stress of the situation ensuring that negotiations can go ahead.

Courtesy: Nicole Mueller

One of the other speakers, Michael Wheeler, a Harvard University management professor, likened the art of negotiation to jazz. Like the music form, he said, negotiation needs improvisation, creativity and, on certain occasions, collaboration too. Wheeler also impressed up on the importance of deep listening and to understand that trust levels of one’s negotiation partner has to be nurtured. He went on to say that more often than not, people have a tendency to over-inflate their self-worth when it comes to issues like trust and morality.

Speakers also spoke of the need for empathy during negotiations. While frameworks can be applied, each situation requires personalization in contentious business and political negotiations. That entails showing understanding of the other side’s situation, motives and pressures and small things such as your negotiation partner by his / her first names in a friendly manner.

Thunderbird was well represented by our own Professors Dr. Karen Walsh and Dr. Eileen Borris. To learn more about the summit visit:


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