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President Donald Trump’s first attempt to fix Obamacare met with failure as the administration was unable to put together the requisite number of votes in the House. As the author of Negotiation Boot Camp, I have been asked to explain Trump’s negotiation strategy behind this campaign.
Trump’s approach was right out of his book, The Art of the Deal, in which he says, “I aim high, and then I just keep pushing and pushing and pushing to get what I’m after.” Aiming high is another way of saying that you are optimistic about your chances for success. It has been proven over and over that successful negotiators are optimists. If you expect to do well, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Conversely, if you don’t expect to do well, then you have lost the first negotiation, the one you have with yourself.
Every negotiation takes place on two planes, external and internal. The obvious plane is the external one, the negotiation you have with the other side. The more subtle negotiation, the internal one, takes place in your head. Most people who meet with failure in negotiation do so because they talk themselves into failure. If you can win that battle in your own mind, you stand a better-than-even chance of winning on the external plane. At this juncture, you might ask, “Well Ed, why didn’t Trump win if he was an optimist?” I will answer that question in a moment. Humor me.
The next issue is the part where Trump says, “I just keep pushing and pushing and pushing.”
This is called persistence, another trait of successful negotiators. Most people give up much too soon in their deal making, when if fact if they simply persevered they would be victorious. So that’s what Trump did with the healthcare bill. He maintained his optimism, he stayed the course, and then he followed one of my negotiation rules that says, “Always be willing to walk away.”
When Trump told the legislators to, in effect, “take it or leave it,” he was demonstrating his commitment to his position. He was willing to walk away because he had a fallback position, a Plan B. He was not desperate for closure because he knew he could put this issue on the shelf, get on with another one of his legislative priorities, and then revisit the healthcare issue down the road. And perhaps that is the best thing in the situation, given that he pushed his bill without adequately working it out beforehand with Congress.
In other words, my analysis is that Trump did win the negotiation. This was a learning process for our new president. Trump is a fast learner and I think this experience will be put to good use in future negotiations.