Friday, January 7, 2011

Done Deal: How to Master the Art of Negotiation.

Why so much bickering? Why so much vitriol, so much downright meanish, cruelish nastiness?

These could be considered rhetorical questions, but really, a simple answer exists as to why our Congress can't seem to find common ground...on anything.

They've lost the ability to negotiate.

We occasionally read that they have come to some sort of agreement on some sort of issue, but consensus is rarely reached based upon give and take; it's based on give and give.

For example, last year an historical health care bill squeaked through a Democratically controlled Senate and House and was signed into law by our President. Cool, no?

No. What actually transpired in a Congressional super majority was the pledging of favors and earmarks to buy crucial votes...from other Democrats! The G.O.P sector didn't even need to show up, since not a single Republican crossed the aisle to vote in the affirmative. The Democratic Party, on the heels of a sweeping electoral mandate, failed in their ability to negotiate, even among each other.

Pathetic, indeed.

Had the right wingers in Congress actually stepped to the bargaining table, the following demands would surely have been honked out by one orange-skinned, gravelly voiced congressman from Ohio:

"We, the Republican caucus, in representing the interests of the American people, agree to allow health insurance for thirty million uninsured Americans, including ten million children. In return, we humbly request tax-exempt status for pharmaceutical corporations, a Saturday morning cartoon featuring Joe Camel and we'd like President Obama to wear an Exxon t-shirt on his next state of the union address and tearfully deny global warming... Oh, and we'd also ask for a brand new war somewhere."

As I stated earlier, this isn't negotiation, it's insanity. Why can't these people learn lessons from other areas of their lives where negotiation is commonplace and quite effective. Here are some cases where the art of negotiation prospers:

Husband/wife negotiation—"I promise I won't laugh when you try to grow facial hair if you promise not to grow facial hair." Done deal.

Workplace negotiation—"Let's just agree to disagree on this. You think I'm an egotistical prima donna and I think you're a knuckle-dragging mouth breather. You think I'm profoundly incompetent, while I believe you are grossly unsanitary. Now, we're are we going for lunch?" Done deal.

Parent/child negotiation (slightly more cumbersome)—
Father, addressing his daughters, aged ten and fifteen: "You guys, please make your lunches for tomorrow before Glee comes on. "

Fifteen-year-old daughter: "Okay." Done deal.

Ten-year-old daughter: "Really? So I have to make my lunch and take a shower before Glee comes on?"

Father: "Yes."

Ten-year-old daughter: "How about if I make my sandwich and take a shower before Glee comes on,  and then tomorrow morning, I'll add the fruit leather, goldfish and juice box?"

Father: "That's more for you to do in the morning then, and it might make us late."

Ten-year-old daughter: "Dad, technically, you should make my sandwich because you used the butts of the bread last time and we had an agreement about not using bread butts."

Father: "Fine. Add the other stuff in the morning." Done deal.

See? It's not that hard. Maybe these people are just spending a little too much time at cocktail parties with  lobbyists, and not enough with their bargain-driving offspring.

Let's hope these politicians can work together...but I'm not optimistic.

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