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Sep 25, 1998

I.D.B. seminar teaches officials valuable negotiating skills

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We may not realize it but much of our time is spent in negotiation: not just formal business dealings across a conference table, but at home with our family, buying something at a store, or arranging anything from the chopping of a yard to the building of a house. Today I found out that the art of the deal is something that can be learned.

Anyone who has been involved in a negotiation, knows just how long and frustrating the exercise can be. But, as demonstrated in a three day negotiating workshop, the process does not have to be tedious or intense. The meeting, sponsored by the Inter-American Development Bank, was conducted by Ted Johnson, a Program Manager with the U.S. based Conflict Management Group.

Ted Johnson, Lecturer, Workshop

“One of the things that we are concerned with here, working with I.D.B., and others, is to give people the ability to not feel like their negotiations are wars. That they are not a contest of will, but it’s really an ability to find ways to meet their joint interests. It’s about joint problem solving, rather than domination and warfare.”

One approach the participants are being introduced to, has been developed at Harvard Law School in the United States. The curriculum not only teaches the participants how to successfully negotiate, but to know why they were able to reach an agreement amicably.

Ted Johnson

“Most everybody knows a good negotiation, when they have one, but they never really take the time to think about what really made it good. And what we do is analyze what makes negotiations work and we find that a lot of it is just about having a very good, good process. It may be a good communication process, understanding the value of a good relationship, not that everybody loves each other, but they have a relationship in which they are able to work respectfully, not only today, but tomorrow, next week and even next year.”

Another important factor in negotiating is to be prepared with options that will be satisfactory to everybody and then having clear commitments about what is expected from the parties involved.

Ted Johnson

“One exercise you conducted this morning is having each participant come up with their own definition of what power is.”

Q: “What was the whole point of this?”

Ted Johnson

“There is a feeling, particularly in a small country like Belize, that when we are negotiating with larger international organizations, whether it’s Mexico or the World Trade Organization, or CARICOM or what not, that a small country because of its size, does not have power. And so we wanted to find out what people felt about power. And the whole idea is that in negotiations, power isn’t about military strength, or having a great deal of economic resources. But it’s about having the ability to influence and you can influence people with ideas appealing to their interests.”

Some participants found out that the program can also be used in other situations closer to home.

Godwin Hulse, President, Belize Chamber of Commerce

“It sort of set a pattern to help you develop the strategy to enter any type of negotiations. Whether you are negotiating with your child, or negotiating with the Mexicans, or the World Bank. And it is a kind of useful tool that transcends all negotiations, even if you are trying to negotiate, I guess with someone who is holding a gun or knife to your head; it’s interesting.”

Marian McNab, P.S., Min. of Tourism, Info. and Broadcasting

“When you are involved with human relations, particularly, the other party is always interested in what he or she wants, and it’s hard to move them away from that, to see things more objectively, In dealing with humans we come across that.”

Jose Alpuche, Asst. Sec., Ministry of Foreign Affairs

“It showed us that it must not always be hard and fast, the concept of sharing interests, finding joint interests and attempting to negotiating amicable, as oppose to what I’ve said, a hard and fast negotiation. It was quite good.”

Close to thirty people, namely from government and the N.G.O. community attended the workshop, which came to a close this evening at the Belize Institute of Management.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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