THOUGHTS FROM TBILISIGeorgian Lessons in Negotiation

This month I had the privilege of accepting an invitation to spend a week in Georgia (the country, not the American state) teaching two seminars on negotiation, one for a business audience, the other a closed session with the leaders of a political party. What a fascinating experience!

Not only did I very much enjoy visiting this beautiful and still strangely unknown country, but I also learned a few things about negotiation along the way. I summarize them in the three Hs:

  1. Hospitality. The indefatigable efforts of my Georgian hosts to make me feel welcome were nothing short of amazing. The warm reception the first evening, the personal sightseeing tours, the savoring of Georgian specialties at several “supras” (feast dinners) and of course the excellent Georgian wine went a long way to building new relationships between us. Indeed, in negotiation, hospitality is key. It does matter who is host and how the guest is received. And numerous studies have documented the power of food and drink in easing tense conversations. It is very difficult to fight when sharing a meal with another.
  1. Heart.  This is very much a heart-based place, and that showed in the way seminar participants handled our various negotiation simulations. “Winning” here means more than just getting what you want, but is also all about real connections between negotiation partners. Emotion plays a big role, as well as the physical side of negotiation. And unlike Russia, win-win is embedded in the culture.
  1. Humility. It is all very well to teach classic interest-based bargaining in a nonthreatening business environment, but discussions with participants who have paid for their interests and especially their values (see my previous blog) with incarceration or torture gave me a whole new perspective on what winning means.   Respect and compassion for the Other can also be sources of negotiation power.

Thanks again to all for these valuable lessons.