The Art of Negotiating the Best Deal

Course No. 5921
Professor Seth Freeman, J.D.
New York University
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Course No. 5921
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Course Overview

Practically everything we do in life involves negotiation. Many important issues—the political future of nations, the scope of business, the purchase of a house—hinge on negotiation. But negotiation is also an integral part of our everyday lives, whether you are resolving a quarrel, creating a family budget, or simply deciding where to eat lunch. Yet it’s easy to believe we’re usually at a disadvantage—that others are born negotiators, while we are not.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Negotiation is a skill that just about everyone can learn to do well. Some people enjoy it. Others do not. But everyone can cultivate it and learn how to handle common challenges such as these:

  • Salary negotiations: Few situations are as awkward as salary negotiations when you’re being offered a new job. The employer has the upper hand, but there are reasonable steps you can take to ensure that you are treated fairly and get the going rate for your position.
  • Sharp tactics: Aggressive negotiators are often not as sharp as they seem, since many rely on standard tricks that are easy to spot—if you know what to look for. Be alert for nibbling, limited authority, and double-talk tactics, among other gambits, and know how to counter them.
  • Haggling: Haggling is what many people hate about negotiation. But it’s possible to turn a win/lose confrontation into a mutually satisfying agreement by focusing on the interests of the two sides, which can be complementary.

Good negotiating goes beyond succeeding in the marketplace; these skills are crucial for solving conflicts of all types, getting fractious groups to work together, counseling friends in distress, persuading people to give to a charity, and generally getting anyone to accept your point of view—and they enable you to do it in ways that enhance rather than strain relationships.

Wouldn’t a course that equips you with such valuable knowledge pay for itself many times over?

The Art of Negotiating the Best Deal is exactly that course, taught by an expert negotiator, mediator, business school teacher, and former corporate attorney: Seth Freeman, an adjunct professor at New York University Stern School of Business and at Columbia University. In 24 engaging and practical lectures, Professor Freeman teaches you how to approach all phases of a negotiation and deal with a wide range of problems. You’ll learn how to negotiate effectively in both competitive and collaborative situations, always being “hard on the problem and soft on the person”—which is the key to achieving a mutually beneficial outcome.

A Negotiator’s Play-by-Play

Preparation is all-important for successful negotiating. But where do you begin, what do you cover, and how do you organize your time, which may be running out? Professor Freeman structures The Art of Negotiating the Best Deal around a mnemonic device that can serve you like a wise old friend in any negotiation situation.

Fittingly, the mnemonic is I FORESAW IT—each of the 10 letters standing for a word or short phrase that, together, guide you in assembling the strongest possible case. After taking this course, you will understand how to use the I FORESAW IT framework to sketch out a coherent and flexible bargaining strategy, on very short notice if necessary.

Among the elements of I FORESAW IT are these:

  • Options: You don’t have to take “no” for an answer when you’re working toward a deal. By coming up with creative options—innovative deal terms—you have a good chance of satisfying both your needs and your counterpart’s.
  • Alternatives to agreement: Determine your best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA). This gives you an exit strategy if the other’s offer seems too harsh. Also consider your worst alternative (WATNA), so that you don’t court disaster by overestimating your strength.
  • Independent criteria: Identify objective benchmarks—for example, the Blue Book’s report on the market value of a car, or a leading publication’s salary survey covering jobs for someone with your qualifications—that can support what your negotiation is trying to achieve.

These and seven other steps are key ideas that skilled negotiators explore to prepare for important talks. Professor Freeman created the I FORESAW IT mnemonic based on social science research, experts’ accounts, and his extensive negotiating experience, and he illustrates each of the ideas with memorable anecdotes. Some concern major negotiations gone horribly wrong—as when famed industrialist Andrew Carnegie violated a cardinal rule by lowballing himself, asking for far less than his counterpart, J. P. Morgan, was prepared to offer. Others are about triumphs—as when a student’s research helped her persuade a reluctant corporate donor to give five times more to her charity than it had before.

Object Lessons in Negotiation

Stories, says Professor Freeman, have an almost magical ability to engage the listener, illustrate ideas, and stay in the mind. Therefore, The Art of Negotiating the Best Deal features scores of real-life incidents that teach powerful and memorable lessons. These object lessons in negotiation include these:

  • Don’t be greedy: Sports agent Bob Woolf represented some of the most celebrated players of his day. But his practice was to stop short of getting the maximum for his clients. Why? “It’s possible to push the price so hard, create such antagonism, that the last 10% really isn’t worth it,” said Woolf.
  • Think beyond the negotiating room: Sometimes an impasse can be resolved by bringing new players or other factors into the negotiation. Learn how this insight helped one passenger rescue a planeload of desperate fellow passengers, who had been waiting hours to dock at their gate in Detroit during a blizzard.
  • Solve the trust problem: The fractious young United States was on the verge of disintegration in 1787 when state delegates met to negotiate a new compact. The resulting U.S. Constitution incorporated a host of trust mechanisms that bound the nation together, while creating a unique blend of state autonomy and federal power.

Some of the most famous negotiations have happened on the world stage, pitting the competing interests of nations against each other. These riveting talks highlight important principles. You’ll hear about the bargaining breakthroughs that led to the Camp David Accords and the resolution of the Cuban missile crisis. You’ll also hear how a courageous U.S. Army general persuaded his superior to overcome great misgivings and let him land with the first wave of troops during D-Day. Each of these negotiations hinged on an insight that can be put to good use when you next sit down to negotiate.

Knowledge is power, and The Art of Negotiating the Best Deal gives you a potent set of tools to serve your interests, resolve disagreements, and advance causes that you hold dear in respectful, principled ways. What could be more useful than that?

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24 lectures
 |  Average 32 minutes each
  • 1
    The Hopeful Power of Negotiation
    Hear how a few simple negotiating ideas can help you achieve remarkable results. Then learn how to use a powerful alternative to traditional win/lose negotiating called interest-based bargaining. x
  • 2
    The Other Negotiator
    Learn how you can often do better for both sides by understanding the other negotiator’s goals and concerns. Professor Freeman illustrates this principle with a widely studied exercise called the Ultimatum Game and the story of the Cuban missile crisis. x
  • 3
    The Art of Skilled Listening
    Listening may be the most important, powerful, and persuasive negotiating skill of all. Explore the difference between how people normally listen and the kind of listening that can make a profound difference when you’re involved in a negotiation. Learn specific techniques that will turn you into a skilled listener. x
  • 4
    Knowledge Is Power
    There’s no substitute for knowing the facts. Discover how you can harness the power of information in different ways—for example, by tracking down independent criteria that bolster your negotiating position. The good news is that you probably already research well; here you’ll discover nonobvious ways to do even better. x
  • 5
    Negotiating Creatively
    Many people believe that the answer “no” is the end of the negotiation. In this lecture, learn how skilled negotiators turn “no” into “yes” by drawing on a secret weapon: creative options—a strategy that businesses also use to build markets, create product lines, and enhance customer relations. x
  • 6
    Credibility and Rapport
    People’s natural wariness in negotiations makes it crucial to establish credibility and rapport from the start of a negotiation. Learn the three Cs—concern, competence, and candor—and the importance of displaying genuine personal warmth and appealing to common interests. x
  • 7
    Can You Negotiate When Trust Is Low?
    Is a deal hopeless when trust is low between negotiators? Not at all. Investigate the wealth of solutions that are available through trust mechanisms. See how the U.S. Constitution is full of such safeguards, designed to overcome nearly ruinous infighting among the states of the young republic—and see how you can put trust mechanisms to use in your own life. x
  • 8
    Building Leverage
    Leverage is a rich and subtle part of any negotiation. Even when you feel your leverage is minimal, you can develop your best alternative to a negotiated agreement, or BATNA. Discover the advantages of using it to decide ahead of time what you will do if a deal falls through x
  • 9
    Basics of Distributive Negotiation
    Bargaining over a salary, the price of an asset, or some other fixed resource in which you try to win at the other’s expense is known as distributive negotiation. In the first of two lectures on this challenging art, discover ways to handle such negotiations with wisdom and grace, and learn how to set your first offer. x
  • 10
    Distributive Negotiation—Twists and Turns
    Sharpen your strategy for distributive negotiating by focusing on who should make the first offer, what to do if you can’t determine your best target, and how to handle special situations such as litigation, auctions, and talks involving agents. Learn how to overcome the psychological phenomena that can hurt your ability to negotiate. x
  • 11
    Measuring Success and Walking Away
    Probe two questions that are fundamental to any negotiation: What are the measures of success? And when do you say “no”? Develop specific, practical ways to answer these questions, and learn to be wary of pitfalls such as “time bombs”—foreseeable flaws that will cause problems later on. x
  • 12
    Creative, Distributive, or Both?
    Now that you have learned tests for assessing any offer, how do you do well both creatively and distributively? Explore ways to combine the two approaches, including a valuable tool that you should bring to any negotiation: the Topics, Targets, and Tradeoffs grid. x
  • 13
    Hidden Factors That Shape Negotiation
    Hear how a nightmarish airline delay sparked a creative solution by one of the passengers, illustrating the hidden features to a negotiation that can profoundly shape the outcome. Explore a wide range of these often-overlooked factors, which you can use to rescue your next negotiation. x
  • 14
    The Power of Preparation—“I FORESAW IT”
    Contrast two actual cases that show the startling difference between mediocre and expert preparation for a negotiation. See how a 10-letter mnemonic—I FORESAW IT—sums up what skilled negotiators do to systematically prepare for important talks. x
  • 15
    Handling Sharp Tactics and Ethical Issues
    How do you handle a negotiator who uses sharp bargaining practices? Learn typical gambits employed by such counterparts—for example, intimidation, rushing, and doubletalk. Examine techniques to counteract these tactics, and look at the ethical dimension of negotiations. x
  • 16
    Using Persuasion Tools and Winning Buy-In
    Discover surprisingly powerful ways to make your case in a negotiation with integrity. Among them: appealing to the other person’s interests, showing the disadvantages of saying “no,” building an argument through a series of probing but respectful questions, and illustrating important points with a story or anecdote. x
  • 17
    Managing Emotions and Psychological Traps
    Negotiating can be a stressful experience. How do you keep your emotions from overriding your better judgment? Explore effective ways to cope with the psychological dynamics in difficult situations, thereby improving the odds of avoiding a blowup or breakdown—either by you or your counterpart. x
  • 18
    Negotiating with Godzilla and the Devil
    How do you negotiate with someone who seems overwhelmingly powerful or corrupt to the point of villainy? Discover surprising ways to level the playing field when you deal with a “Godzilla,” and wise ways to decide whether to negotiate with a “devil,” drawing on the experiences of small entrepreneurs, statesmen, and hostage negotiators. x
  • 19
    Cross-Cultural Negotiation
    Cross-cultural negotiations can be rife with misunderstood signals and missed opportunities. Probe three major problems that often arise in cross-cultural bargaining and explore how to understand and overcome them. Then hear Professor Freeman’s advice based on his and others’ negotiating experience with international companies and organizations x
  • 20
    Negotiating with Children
    Dealing with children has features in common with cross-cultural negotiating, and offers valuable perspective on negotiating with adults generally. Discover when and how to apply an interest-based negotiation approach to bedtimes, homework, behavioral issues, and other challenges of parenthood. Like grown-ups, the young respond surprisingly well when they feel they have a voice in the outcome. x
  • 21
    Negotiating Work and the Workplace
    In the increasingly volatile world of work, negotiating skills can reveal hidden, career-building opportunities that can help you start a business, find a job, or discover new possibilities in your current position. Probe remarkable negotiation strategies for building your career, including information interviewing, negotiation marketing, and even creating a job for yourself. x
  • 22
    Healing the Troubled Deal
    Not every deal turns out well. How do you make sure serious flaws aren’t lurking in an agreement—whether it’s a cell phone plan, a summer rental, or a contract with a business partner? Learn how to spot and correct hidden traps by using a powerful mnemonic device called WINLOSE and other powerful ideas. x
  • 23
    Why the Trust Problem Is Fundamental
    A single question haunts every negotiation and, surprisingly, most other academic subjects: How do you know it’s safe to deal with your counterparts and that their assurances are reliable? Look deeply into this problem of trust. Then distill the lessons of the course into just five words. x
  • 24
    Confrontation, Love, and Negotiation
    Finish by exploring two final problems: How do you challenge someone without destroying the relationship? And what is the connection between negotiation and love? No less a negotiator than Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had very insightful advice on this latter question. x

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Your professor

Seth Freeman

About Your Professor

Seth Freeman, J.D.
New York University
Professor Seth Freeman is an adjunct professor at New York University Stern School of Business and at Columbia University. He has taught negotiation, conflict management, and related subjects there since the 1990s. He holds a B.A. in Economics from Cornell University and a J.D. from The University of Pennsylvania Law School. A highly rated and popular teacher, Professor Freeman has taught negotiation around the world...
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The Art of Negotiating the Best Deal is rated 4.9 out of 5 by 47.
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Returned Disks This professor does not offer information and advice suitable for women. If I tried any of his ideas, I would lose my job. His attempt to play volleyball with "his" and "hers" is distracting in the extreme. Someone should tell him that we now use "theirs" because it includes everybody.
Date published: 2020-08-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Let's Be Hard on the Problem & Soft on the Person I've listened to many Great Courses, and this course is top-notch. I'm not sure what drove me to pick this one up and listen because I'm not usually interested in anything sales related. However, I am so glad I gave this course a chance. Professor Freeman has completely changed my perspective on negotiating. He has such a humble and caring attitude, and it informs the entire course: "Let's be hard on the problem and soft on the person." Negotiating is not about getting the best deal for me, but finding the best possible deal for all involved. I especially appreciate his tips for dealing with intimidating or irrational people and the concept of compassionate confrontation. Everyone negotiates in life, not just sales people, so this course is applicable to anyone who wants to get along better with their fellow humans. My only complaint about the course is the title. It seems mismatched to the content. The focus of the course is on getting along with other people so that you can all get ahead.
Date published: 2019-12-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from 1st Rate Course! This course will make you a better person. Seth Freeman does a wonderful job outlining the basics of negotiating including figuring out everyone's interests, listening, setting goals and getting to an desired outcome.
Date published: 2019-06-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A very pragmatic course. The course is a useful one for professionals as well as to others. Presented in an interesting and inspiring manner. I really enjoyed it well.
Date published: 2018-09-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding Course Professor Freeman is an outstanding professor; he is knowledgeable, experienced, and gives rich and valuable analysis and information about a subject that we all need to know and learn better.
Date published: 2018-06-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Absolutely fantastic I received this course as a gift, and I listen to it over and over again.
Date published: 2018-03-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I'm still going through the course. It has made me think through many situations.I feel it will help me with my job and with every day life. Recomended!!!
Date published: 2017-11-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Courses I think that all of my Great Course are 'GREAT". That is why I keep ordering them. 41 to-date. I enjoy the DVD format. I get the text and the DVD's. All instructors have Ph.D's on the topic covered and present everything in a clear, concise and understandable format, and I can review lessons as many times as I want to make it more meaningful. The bottom line is "I have a first class educational tool" in my own private home base.
Date published: 2017-11-20
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