A professional negotiator weighs in on the fiscal cliff talks

10:33 AM, Dec 29, 2012   |    comments
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GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) -- The deadline for the fiscal cliff is now just days away, and as the political bickering continues, many wonder why can't the nation's leaders come to a deal?

When it comes to negotiating, we do it more often than we think.  You might try to get a better deal on a car, or a higher salary at a your job.  

History also has examples of successful negotiations, including nuclear weapons treaties between the U.S. and former Soviet Union and the 1970s peace accord between Israel and Egypt.

So why does it seem so hard for President Obama and lawmakers to agree on a compromise?

Pat White, an attorney with the Varnum Law Firm in Grand Rapids, says it makes tactical sense to do what Congressional leaders are doing.

"Hold out until the very last minute if you can to try and get the big deal done, because there won't be another pressure point like this unless they artificially create it," White says.

White handles negotiations between private and public sector groups and unions.  He says one of the most important steps two sides need to take is to establish trust.

"Everybody loses something, everybody should gain something in a successful negotiation," he says.

Do you have to be nice to each other to do that?  "No, you do not have to be nice. I think it helps get the deal done," he says.

A nice negotiation may be easier between two people, but is it realistic when there are 435 members of the House and 100 senators involved?  White says it comes down to the two political parties -- the two may need to be nicer to their own members for a deal to be made.

"The sale [of the compromise] back to your side is really the biggest art to the deal, explaining to them why this is in their best interests," he says.

When it comes to consequences, White says, for his clients, there's an economic bottom line interest for labor and management.  If they fail to reach a deal, a business could be shut down and employees could lose their jobs.











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