Summary of "The Negotiator's Fieldbook: The Desk Reference for the Experienced Negotiator"

 

Summary of

The Negotiator's Fieldbook: The Desk Reference for the Experienced Negotiator

Edited by  Andrea K. Schneider and Christopher Honeyman,

Summary written by Brett Reeder and Heidi Burgess, Conflict Research Consortium


Citation: Schneider, Andrea K. and Christopher Honeyman, eds. The Negotiator's Fieldbook: The Desk Reference for the Experienced Negotiator. Washington, DC: ABA Section of Dispute Resolution, 2006.


The intellectual base of negotiation as a field is now quite extensive, taking advantage of insights from many different disciplines. While there are many positive aspects of such a broad knowledge base, it also has its problems. With so much knowledge out there, no single scholar or practitioner can possibly keep up with the most innovative insights across disciplines. At the same time, the drive to make negotiation an "essential practice" has, the editors explain, "...created an impetus toward using and highlighting discoveries invented in each respective discipline" (p2). An unfortunate consequence of this is a "fractionation" in the field which runs contrary to "...what is so desperately needed: continuous improvement in everyday understanding of what different disciplines have to contribute to each other's conceptions and to practical skill in negotiation." (p2)

The Negotiator's Fieldbook seeks to change this trend. While most contemporary books on negotiation are either introductory texts or specific to a particular discipline, this book seeks to transcend disciplines at an advanced level. And that it does. It contains an amazing collection of 80 chapters, all very short and readable. The authors include scholars and practitioners, lawyers, judges, diplomats, planners, police officers, nurses, psychologists, professors of business, sociology, anthropology, international relations...the list goes on and on. Begun at a conference of some 25 people who were assembled by Schneider and Honeyman to develop a "canon of negotiation," the project seemed to grow larger and larger over time, like a snowball rolling downhill. The end result -- like the snowball -- is an object that is almost too big to pick up, but it collected an enormous amount of wisdom as it "rolled."

Some of the chapters are general -- and are likely of interest to a wide audience; other chapters are quite specific, and are likely to be of interest to a narrower set of readers. But the editors suggest (and we would agree) that readers might use this book as an opportunity to explore unfamiliar areas. The annotated table of contents gives "hints" about the contents of each chapter -- (the titles don't always tell it all) -- and they intrigue the reader. Anyone who has the tenacity to read this book cover to cover will learn an immense amount -- even if they knew a lot about negotiation coming in!

The volume was conceived and brought to fruition by Andrea Kupfer Schneider, a professor of law at Marquette University, and Christopher Honeyman, a mediator and arbitrator who has long been interested in and focused on bridging the gap between theory and practice and bringing these strange bedfellows together. In a sense, this is a culmination of Honeyman's work in that regard -- here he has brought almost everybody who is anybody (except us!) in the field of negotiation together in one place to share their expertise. Although his interest in such activities has not waned, the effort that it took to get this book to the publisher -- and out the other end -- makes it unlikely that he or Schneider will be undertaking such an extensive enterprise again very soon (perhaps ever!) However, this is a goldmine of information -- well worth the editors' efforts and the readers' time.

One of the major challenges faced by Schneider and Honeyman was the decision of how to organize this unwieldy and eclectic set of essays. They settled on a plan to go from the general to the specific. First, they look at theoretical topics such as framing, ethics, power, and identity; they then move on to practical advice about what to do to get to the table, and what to do at the table; then, they examine particular applications of negotiation -- for example, hostage negotiation, business negotiation, and negotiation in the military. Some of the topics are familiar, such as compromise, ripeness, trust and distrust, but many are new to most readers: apology and forgiveness, creativity and negotiation, electronic negotiation, "the theory of the mind" -- which looks at how we interpret what people are thinking even when they don't say it, and negotiating with people who have a mental disorder.

Many other organizational schemes are possible. In an attempt to emulate a hypertext document, the editors have posed at least eight other organizational schemes on the book's website (http://www.abanet.org/dispute/publications/negotiatorsfieldbook.html). The other tables of contents include a "primer" for beginners, readings on interpersonal negotiations, employment and intra-organizational settings, international negotiations, business, environmental and public policy negotiations, litigation, and a table of contents for those who have "seen it all." These tables of contents are partial -- meaning they only include the chapters that apply to the given topics or set of readers; articles thought to be of lesser importance are left out (which means that readers using them may miss opportunities to delve into the new, but they won't be so overwhelmed either). The editors have also indicated links between chapters in the basic, printed table of contents and throughout the text of the chapters in the form of in-text notes.

This is all very helpful, and approximates what the editors could have done had they posted this volume on the Web, instead of publishing it in hardcopy -- a critique which is part tongue-in-cheek, as that is what we prefer and do ourselves -- but it is not entirely meant in jest. Had this book been posted on the Web instead of on paper, it would have been much more accessible. As it is, it is too expensive for many readers, especially for those who only are interested in a few of the chapters. It is also much less searchable. If they had posted it on the Web, they would have made less money (though I doubt money was an issue, really), and the authors might have obtained a less valuable resume entry (which probably was a matter of concern), but the authors and publisher would have reached a much larger audience. We wish they would have done that, and hope, sometime down the road, that the ABA will allow that to happen. In the meantime, we urge readers who have any interest in negotiation to buy the book and spend some time really exploring it. While the names are largely familiar, many of the ideas are new and extremely valuable, and the amount of wisdom contained in this 800-page volume is unmatched in any other print volume we can think of. (The Encyclopaedia Britannica doesn't count!)