No Deal Is Better Than A Bad Deal

Do you believe your bosses want you to make every possible deal?

I certainly hope not. Your bosses really want you to make profitable deals. They want you to walk away from bad deals.

That’s one of the principles of my new online course at Is Trump’s Negotiating Strategy Right For You? It’s based on the live courses I’ve taught to the world’s largest multinational in twenty countries. I’ve interviewed senior executives in many of those companies, and virtually all of them want their subordinates to be tougher, to negotiate deals that increase the bottom line.

They would agree with this blog’s title: “No deal is better than a bad deal.” Here’s just one example.

Top management of a major publishing house hired me to teach negotiating skills to their acquiring editors, the people who negotiate contracts with authors. This publisher had been purchased by a huge conglomerate that was extremely dissatisfied with its poor profits. The executive who hired me insisted that their editors had to become much tougher because the firm was writing off over $100 million in unearned author advances.

When I told the class that this was our objective, one editor angrily objected, “Those bean counters at X (the conglomerate) don’t understand that publishing is different from most industries. If I don’t overpay for a big book, I won’t get a chance to bid on future big books. I have to prove to the agents that I’m a player.”

I replied, “You mean if you don’t lose money on this book, you won’t get a chance to lose money on the next one.”

She was furious. She didn’t say another word, sat in class fuming until we broke for coffee, left, and never came back. Within a few months she left the firm. I don’t know whether she quit or was fired, but do know that her negotiating objective was extraordinarily stupid. She neglected her firm’s bottom line and top management’s priority because she wanted to be “a player.”

If you value your career, don’t make her mistake.

You may think, “That’s an interesting story, but it’s just one anecdote. I’d like more evidence.” That’s a reasonable position, so here are some spectacularly bad deals:

  1. of their customers wished that mortgage loans for billions of dollars had never been made. The bankers took huge losses on the loans, and the customers bought houses they couldn’t afford and frequently lost through foreclosure.
  2. Several American cities cannot provide essential services because so much of their budgets is spent for employees’ pensions. The cities’ negotiators gave in again and again to excessive demands.
  3. World War II could have been prevented if Chamberlain, the British Prime Minister, had refused at Munich to yield to Hitler’s outrageous demands.

The lesson couldn’t be clearer: No deal is UNQUESTIONABLY better than a bad deal.

Walking away rather settling for a deal you dislike may make you very uncomfortable, but you’ll just have to accept that short-term discomfort and become tougher.

Tough negotiating won’t just help your career. It will also put money – perhaps lots of money – into your pocket. You can’t negotiate good deals unless you’re willing to walk away from bad ones.


You can’t afford to be so foolish.  Good negotiators are brutally realistic. They accept reality, even when they intensely dislike it.

I recently published an online course at Udemy, “Is Trump’s Negotiating Strategy Right For YOU?

It states that Trump’s negotiating strategy works wonderfully in some situations, but fails abysmally in others. Some Trump-Lovers and Trump-Haters refuse to accept that obvious fact.

What Trump-Lovers Deny

Some Trump-Lovers deny that his extraordinary aggression creates enemies, loses deals, and prevents absolutely critical cooperation. For example:

  • We’ve had the longest government shut down in our entire history.
  • 40% of his staff have left.
  • Some prominent Republicans have attacked him.
  • Many foreign leaders don’t trust him.
  • The Democrats are desperately trying to impeach him

What Trump-Haters Deny

Trump-Haters are equally blind to reality.

A distinguished professor reacted to my course’s title with this extraordinarily silly email: “I’m deeply suspicious of anything that has ‘Trump’ and ‘Strategy’ in the same sentence. He has none. Never has. So it’s simply not possible that it could be ‘right for you.’”

Since Trump made billions and won the American presidency, that statement is a purely emotional denial of reality. If he didn’t have a strategy, he couldn’t have been so successful.

Another friend was equally irrational. I said that Trump had gotten some great deals.

He angrily replied, “Name one!”

It would be a silly response for anyone, but it was especially silly for my friend. He knows that Trump couldn’t have become a multi-billionaire without making great deals, and he also knows that Trump’s books describe manygreat deals. He just can’t accept those facts.

I mentioned only one deal, Mar-A-Lago. My friend knows that Trump bought it for a small fraction of its worth. Did he accept my answer?

Of course not.

He said, “That wasn’t a great deal.”

Saying that buying a property for much less than it’s worth isn’t a great deal because you hate him is like saying, “Ty Cobb wasn’t a great baseball player,” because he was an exceptionally nasty SOB.

Ty Cobb was one of history’s greatest players. His batting average is the highest of all time, and he received 98.2% of the votes for the Hall of Fame.

His record speaks for itself. The same can be said for Trump. Whether you love him or hate him, don’t deny reality: He’s a huge winner.

I must add that I detested Trump long before most people knew his name. I lived near Atlantic City, played poker in his casinos, and learned that he mistreated his employees, bullied local businesses, and even tried to run over a little old lady. She owned a house he wanted to tear down for his parking lot. But I don’t let my dislike for him blind me to the fact that he has negotiated MANY great deals.

To negotiate well, you MUST accept reality, even when you intensely dislike it.

Creating the Right Negotiating Atmosphere Part Two

It’s your first task. If you don’t create the right atmosphere, you may never start moving toward a deal.

Part One included a transcript of the first minute of a session between Jack, a consultant, and George, a long-term client. George is a tough negotiator, but he likes to start with a little warm-up period. Jack annoyed him by immediately asking, “Did you get a chance to read our proposal?”

George frowns slightly, then says, “Yes, it seems to satisfy most of our needs.”

Jack misses the significance of the word “most” and continues, “I’m sure you’ll find that it’s an excellent proposal.”

“Jack, I have a lot of confidence in your firm. You’ve always done good work for us.”

“Thanks, George.”

“But I’m concerned about the training.”

Jack looks a bit surprised. “Oh?”

“You said that one of your people will do it.”

“That’s right.”

“We have a well-qualified person who could handle it. Her name is Joan Mclntyre. Here’s her resume.” George hands Jack the resume and sits back, waiting for him to read it

Jack doesn’t even look at it because he’s already dismissed the idea of using Joan. “Well, George, we’ve found that our staff does a much better job than internal people.”

Questions and Textbook Answers

Of course, you may disagree with the textbook answers. Many people do, but make sure you have good reasons for disagreeing.

  1. What should Jack have done after George said, “”It seems to satisfy most of our needs.”

He should have recognized that “most” meant it didn’t satisfy all of George’s needs. It’s subtle, but good negotiators understand subtle signals. The more you understand other people, the better results you’ll get.

You may regard “most” as a positive signal because you want to “think positively.” That’s the wrong way to think while negotiating. Instead, be realistic: Try to learn how other people really think, not how you want or are afraid they think.

Jack should have said something like: “Most? I guess that means it doesn’t satisfy some needs. Which ones wouldn’t be satisfied?”

That question provides two benefits. First, it shows he’s trying to understand George, improving the atmosphere. Second, he would learn some important information.

  1. What should Jack have done after George handed him Joan’s resume?

Whenever somebody gives you something to read, either read it immediately, or ask, “Should I read this now?” Jack rejected and offended George.

Understanding and adjusting to other people are central themes of my videos and eBook: Negotiate to Win: Gaining the Psychological Edge, 2d Edition.

The eBook will be published very soon. FOR A LIMITED TIME, you can get a free copy by clicking HERE .

(I will arrange to send the copy when the book is released.)

You can watch the first video of this series for free by clicking HERE.




Creating the Right Negotiating Atmosphere

It’s your first task. If you don’t create the right atmosphere, you may never start moving toward a deal.

Jack, a consultant, will negotiate with George, a long-term client. George is a tough negotiator. He’s friendly and likes to start with a little warm-up period, but, when it comes to money, he’s really tough. He even brags about how much he saved on his office furniture.

Today’s negotiation concerns a contract for about $150,000. George ordered nearly $2,000,000 worth of computers and related equipment that will be delivered in two months. It can’t be used well without a consultant’s help.
They’ve had several meetings and agreed on most issues. Jack believes that today’s meeting is to settle the price. He submitted a written proposal covering all the issues, including price.

Jack enters George’s office and walks toward him. George smiles, and says, “Thanks for coming. Jack. How are you today?”
“Fine, George. Did you get a chance to read our proposal?”
George frowns slightly, then says, “Yes, it seems to satisfy most of our needs.”

They’ve been together less than one minute, and Jack made a serious mistake.


  1. What was Jack’s mistake?
  2. How did George indicate that it was a mistake?

Textbook Answers

Of course, you may disagree with these answers. Many other people have done so, but make sure you have good reasons for disagreeing.

1. What mistake did Jack make?
He got down to business much too quickly. He knew George always liked to have a brief warm up period, but he immediately asked, “Did you get a chance to read our proposal?”

2. How did George indicate that Jack had made that mistake?
He frowned slightly. You may think that it’s unrealistic to expect somebody to pick up such a subtle signal, but skilled negotiators constantly look for body language and other signals of people’s feelings. If Jack had recognized that signal, he should have slowed down and made small talk. He needed to create the right atmosphere before discussing his proposal.

Of course, many people detest small talk. With them you should create a different type of atmosphere. The critical task is to understand what other people want and then adjust to them.

Understanding and adjusting to other people are central themes in my videos and book: Negotiate to Win: Gaining the Psychological Edge, 2d Edition.

The eBook will be published very soon. FOR A LIMITED TIME, you can get a free copy by clicking HERE .

(I will arrange to send the copy when the book is released.)

How To Play The Negotiating End Game

The End Game (the last few minutes) is usually the most stressful part of a negotiation. Because most of the “fat” has been cut away, the concessions are often painful, and deadline pressure intensifies the stress. Everybody knows that there is a lot at stake, and you may not have enough time to think carefully or correct your mistakes.   

Because this tension causes many serious mistakes, the critical personal quality during the End Game is good nerves. Without them you can settle too quickly and leave lots of money on the table.

The tension can make you miss clear signals that other side will go further, perhaps much further: They might say something like this, “We think it’s a fair deal for both of us, but, if necessary, we can make adjustments.” Instead of exploiting this obvious opportunity to get a better deal, some people just settle, leaving lots of money on the table: “OK, glad we’re both happy.”

To reduce these stresses and their negative effects, perform three kinds of preparation:

  1. Psychological: You need every bit of your mental and physical energy to bepsychologically ready for the stressful Get control of your nerves, and make sure you’re not tired, not even slightly intoxicated, or fuzzy-headed.
  2. Informational: You should have a fairly clear picture of the others’ objectives, power, strategy, and so on. If you don’t have this information,you can’t play the End Game well. You don’t have enough time to get that information; you need it
  3. Positional: You don’thave time to create a good position; you need it when the End Game begins. If you don’t have it already, try to create it as quickly as possible.

What should you do if you’re not well-prepared? Get out of the End Game. Extend the deadline to get time to take whatever steps you needed to prepare for the next End Game.

The others may refuse to extend it and escalate the costs of not meeting it. It takes nerve to stand up to that pressure, but you can’t afford to yield to it. If you enter the End Game unprepared, you’ll probably make costly mistakes. If you’re not ready for the End Game, don’t play it.

Countless people have ignored that simple principle, and they almost always regretted it.

When you’re well-prepared, shift your focus to the End Game’s four primary tasks:

  1. Test Their limits. Learn how far you can push them.
  2. Communicate Finality. Make them believe that you’ve reached your limit; you can’t go further.
  3. Use Deadline Pressure. Make that pressure and tension work for you, not against
  4. Let Them Save Face. Let them feel they have won by your words and body language.

Future blogs will tell you how to take each step.

This blog is based on my newest book, Negotiate to Win: Gaining the Psychological Edge, 2d Edition. For a free Kindle copy of it click HERE.

Should You Negotiate Like Donald Trump?

My previous blog said many people underestimated him. You can read it here. It’s equally foolish to overestimate or carelessly copy him.

I’m not judging – either positively or negatively - his policies. That’s not my job. My only mission is to teach you and others how to negotiate.


His business success was obvious, and some of his presidential negotiations worked well. However, it’s too soon to tell their long-term effects. His short-term success occurred because:

  • He’s the world’s most powerful person.
  • He’s extraordinarily unpredictable.
  • He created an extremely dominant and aggressive image with successful business deals, a savage election campaign, a best-selling book, and a television show.

You don’t have remotely as strong a position, nor do you have such a scary image, nor can you take all the steps he’s taken.


He’s a master bargainer, but a terrible joint problem-solver. Pure Bargaining is a win-lose game based on power. Joint problem-solving is a win-win game based on trust and information sharing. Nearly everything that builds power reduces trust and information-sharing and vice versa.


He beats up people and enjoys doing it. He even tried to trademark, “You’re fired.”

People don’t trust or share information with him because he’s so deceptive, competitive, aggressive, and power-oriented.


The only intelligent answer is, “It depends on the situation.”  Don’t decide before answering many questions:

  1. How much do your interests conflict?The more they conflict, the more appropriate bargaining becomes.
  2. How powerful are you? It pays to bargain when you’re strong, to problem-solve when you’re weak.
  3. How important is the long-term relationship?The more important it is, the more you should usually emphasize problem-solving.
  4. How hard will implementing the agreement be? If it will be easy, bargaining generally pays. The harder implementation will be, the more you should try for win-win.
  5. Which approach are they using?If they’re bargaining, and you’re problem-solving, you’ll probably lose, at least in the short term, and you’ll probably resent it. Conversely, if you’re bargaining, and they’re problem-solving, you’ll probably have a short-term victory, but you may damage or destroy the relationship.
  6. Can you CREDIBLY copy his strategy? Don’t try it if you’d be too uncomfortable. You’ll just mess things up.

If you’re thinking of copying him, carefully answer all these questions, and discuss your answers with a good negotiator. Then use only the parts of Trump’s strategy that fit your situation, image, and personality.

This blog is based on my newest book, Negotiate to Win: Gaining the Psychological Edge, 2d Edition. For a free Kindle copy of it click HERE.

Be Smarter Than The ‘Experts’ About Trump

Many “experts” underestimate him. Some even claim he’s mentally ill. They are so blinded by his policies and personality that they ignore his extraordinary success:
• He made billions of dollars.
• He won the presidency despite most experts’ insistence that he was hopeless
• He’s renegotiating unfair trade agreements
• He hade more progress with North Korea in a few months than his predecessors had made in decades.

Please note that I’m not judging – either positively or negatively – his policies. That’s not my job. My only mission is to teach you and others how to negotiate, and we can all learn from him. The critical question is: Why has he been so successful?

He’s Extremely Deceptive.

Information is power, and he increases his power by knowing much more about what other people think than they know about him. He’s made many statements that conflict with each other or with solid evidence. Hardly anyone is sure they know what he really believes.
He is always negotiating, and some of people don’t realize they’re negotiating until after he has established and exploited a strong position against them. Some never realize it.
Many “experts”, especially ones in the media, still don’t realize how much they helped him. They deny the obvious evidence that – without their help – he never would have been elected.

He Takes Outrageous Positions.

These positions frighten people, make them wonder whether any deal is possible, and create immense bargaining room. He sometimes backs down very quickly, surprising everyone. He always knew that he couldn’t get some of the “deals” he proposed. He frequently said something outrageous, scared people, and then backed down to a more realistic position.

He Uses Tweets To Reinforce His Frightening Image.

Tweets and other direct communications to the public were never used so frequently or effectively by a president or candidate. His tweets indirectly said, “I’m not constrained by the rules that inhibit other people, including other presidents. I am so special, so unique, that I can and will do whatever I like. If you don’t like it, that’s tough.”

He Uses Extreme Language.

His language has been unprecedented for a president or candidate. His predecessors almost never publicly used words like, “piece of ass” nor did they say the media are “the most dishonest people.” His extreme language reinforces his “I can’t control myself” image.

He Very Effectively Applies The Law Of Irrationality.

His outrageous offers, frequent tweets, and extreme language have created an “unbalanced” image. People yield to him because they are afraid of what he might do. And that’s exactly what he wants.
The “experts” say he is a psychopath and a narcissist. Even people with a more positive image have doubts about his ability to control himself.
His apparent instability greatly increases his bargaining power. People will make concessions to him that they wouldn’t make to someone they believe is more rational, predictable, and controlled.
Later blogs will discuss the lessons you can apply while negotiating.

NOTE: If you want to learn to negotiate BETTER than Trump, GO HERE and fill out the form.

If You’re Extremely Detached

This blog continues the discussion of “Extremely Detached People.” To read it, click here

Recommendations For Extremely Detached People.

 Loosen up. Accept the obvious reality that negotiations are often illogical, that there are gaming elements, that emotions and “irrational” factors frequently and inescapably affect many negotiations.

Build on your natural strengths, but adjust to the problems your personal style creates. Accept the fact that most people like rituals, so do them. It doesn’t cost that much time or energy to have a long handshake, make small talk, and take other actions that will create a relaxed atmosphere.

The mutual concessions ritual is – by an enormous margin – the most important one. Ignore your discomfort and perform it. Otherwise, many people will believe that you refuse to bargain in good faith.

More generally, try to tune in to people. Go beyond the facts and figures, and try to understand what they want and why they are acting this way.

If they like to bargain, suppress your natural tendency to make reasonable offers, then stay at or near them. Position yourself by making a first offer that gives you enough room to swap concessions.

Try to put together deals that satisfy both sides, including their personal and political motives. You may not care about those motives, but they do.

Continue to plan thoroughly, but build some flexibility into your plans. “If they do this, I’ll do that. But, if they object to this position, I will….”

Apply the MSP concept. Set a firm Minimum or Maximum Settlement Point based on your economics and other factors, and commit to it with someone important such as your boss. Then explore the bargaining range for creative win/win alternatives. Doing so will help you to resist the pressures to take a narrow approach.

During the negotiation show a lot more flexibility. Set your plans aside temporarily and focus on what both sides want to accomplish. Then openly consider a variety of acceptable solutions and resist your natural tendency to stick to the one best solution. Most people are much less logical than you are, and some solutions can seem illogical and still work. Negotiations, by definition, include ambiguous areas. When necessary, seek or accept a solution that’s less than ideal, but still satisfies both parties’ major objectives.

If possible, consider completely new ways to put the deal together. Since you naturally dislike rushing into areas you haven’t analyzed, get their ideas about other ways to structure the deal, then break to analyze their proposal. Perhaps you’ll be surprised: Their approach may be better than yours, and some combination of the two may be even better.

Above all, accept that negotiations are between people, not computers, and work on that personal dimension.

You can view a free video, “The Negotiating Process,” by clicking here.

You can rent a video about negotiating styles for $1.99 by clicking here.

If You’re Extremely Dominant

This blog continues the discussion of “Extremely Dominant People.” To read it, click here. 

Recommendations For Extremely Dominant People.

Lighten up. Don’t push so hard. And concentrate on understanding the other side. These themes interact with each other because your obsession with winning may prevent you from understanding, or even trying to understand them. All our recommendations relate to these themes. Build on your natural strengths, but adjust to your personal style’s negative effects.

Don’t make everything into a battle. Focus on the important ones, and let other people win a few.

Work on listening better. Remember, understanding other people is the single most important negotiating skill. Listen with your eyes as well as your ears, and try to understand more than just their negotiating positions. Look for signs that you’re pushing too hard, that they are becoming unnecessarily uncomfortable, stubborn or thinking of walking out. Try to understand how they feel and what they want from you besides just a good deal.

Be more flexible. Make your offers a little more reasonable, your concessions a little larger, and your compromises less grudging. Make them want to concede instead of creating unnecessary rigidity. Don’t make the Law of Irrationality work against you.

Don’t overemphasize pure bargaining. Look for problem-solving and trading opportunities. How can you structure a deal that satisfies both parties?

Continuously remind yourself of the importance of letting them save face; then make a concession or take whatever other action will make them feel better.

Above all, try for a greater emphasis upon win-win.

You can view a free video, “The Negotiating Process,” by clicking here.

You can rent a video about negotiating styles for $1.99 by clicking here.

Trial Lawyers vs Scientists

By Dr. Al Schoonmaker

They generally dislike each other because they think very differently. Trial lawyers are dominant, and scientists are detached. For descriptions of extremely detached and dominant people click on a blog title on this page.

Dominants generally regard detached people as “bean counters,” regardless of their credentials or authority. Detached people often regard dominants as emotional, illogical bullies. The conflict between them is illustrated by the extreme differences in the way they handle evidence.

Detached people handle evidence objectively. They want to determine the truth.

They draw their conclusions after examining the evidence, and they try very hard to ensure that the evidence and the way it is analyzed are not biased.

They understand that everybody has biases, and they use procedures to minimize the effects of their own and other people’s biases: randomized samples, control groups, double-blind experiments, and peer-reviewed journals. If a scientist is presented with solid evidence that proves that his position is wrong, he will accept that evidence and admit his mistake.

Dominant people handle evidence subjectively. They don’t care much or at all about the truth. They just want is to win.

They begin with a conclusion: my side is right, and then they do everything they can to win. They rarely admit mistakes, and they sneer at objectivity.

Criminal jury trials are the perfect example of their contempt for objectivity. Prosecutors and defense attorneys aren’t there to determine the truth about guilt or innocence. They are there to win, and the only thing they care about is the verdict:

He’s guilty.

He’s innocent.

They try very hard to get juries that are biased in their favor. They do background checks, cross-examine potential jurors, and use jury consultants to find people with biases that favor them.

Before the trial begins, defense attorneys frequently file motions to suppress evidence that weakens their case. It may be convincing proof of guilt, but they often get it suppressed. During the trial both sides try very hard to convince the jury that their evidence is correct, and they twist the meaning of the other side’s evidence.

If a defense attorney wins an acquittal for an obviously guilty client by suppressing or distorting evidence, he’s done his job well, and other attorneys will congratulate him. If a scientist handled evidence that way, other scientists would severely criticize him.

You may think that only criminal defense lawyers act so unethically, but you’d be wrong. Prosecutors aren’t as bad, but they frequently violate the law or legal procedures to get a conviction. A Google search for the legal term, “prosecutorial misconduct” got 331,000 hits. A search for the more common words, “prosecutors’ misconduct” got 2,430,000 hits.

My friend, Jim Brier, emailed that defense attorneys must rely on suppressing evidence, etc. because the prosecution has immensely greater resources. I agree about the resources-imbalance, but it doesn’t affect the central issue: Neither attorney is at all objective about the evidence. They just want to win.

To learn more about how thinking styles affect negotiations and many other issues, read the final chapter of my forthcoming book, Negotiate to Win: Gaining the Psychological Edge, 2nd Edition. For a free copy, click here.

To see my negotiating videos, click here.