When Life’s a Bargain



He was part of a team that convinced 3,000 Bolivian farmers to stop growing coca for cocaine and start cultivating bananas. He helped forge an agreement that ended the bitter, three-month long Writers Guild strike in 2008. He moderated a discussion between Latvia's agriculture minister and its defense minister that nudged a fledgling government closer to democracy.

He even finessed his way out of danger when a trigger-happy Congolese soldier in fatigues shoved a submachine gun into his belly on the tarmac at Kinshasa Airport, coda to an attempted diamonds-for-tanks mission.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist turned Harvard Law School grad turned Wharton Business School professor, Stuart Diamond, 62, may not have been born negotiating his way into the world, but it became clear early on that he has an innate ability to bring people to the table.

And once they're all seated, he manages to broker an agreement that leaves everyone feeling good.

As a college junior circa 1969, Diamond persuaded the administration of what was then an all-male Rutgers University to allow female visitations in the dorms. He's been making deals — big and small — ever since.

The Haverford resident has represented governments and corporations in 45 countries, including China, Kuwait and the Ukraine, and taught marketing and business courses at Wharton, New York University, Columbia University and the University of Southern California.

He spent eight years at the United Nations, a tour of duty whose highlights include advising the Cuban government on its burgeoning biotech industry.

Clients of his Philadelphia-based Global Strategy Group include Google, Microsoft, IBM, Yahoo! and the World Bank.

You should write a book, Diamond's students told him over and over. And he did. It's called Getting More: How to Negotiate to Achieve Your Goals in the Real World.

The guide parses Diamond's negotiating strategies for the person in the street, debuting as a No. 1 choice on Amazon's business book website and topping the Barnes & Noble bestseller list.

"It even beat out George Bush's book — can you believe that?" Diamond says, marveling over tuna salad and coffee during a late morning interview at a Cherry Hill, N.J., restaurant, a familiar stomping ground for the Camden native.

From scoring discount airline tickets to ending conflict in the Middle East, Getting Moreoffers a toolkit of skills that emphasize making people-to-people connections over exercising raw power. Diamond walks the reader through hundreds of scenarios in which students he's trained have successfully applied his techniques.

They are as simple as asking what the other fellow had for breakfast, and as profound as remaining dispassionate in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

If he had to distill his approach, he says during the interview, it would include:

· Trying to understand the other guy's perceptions from the outset.

· Practicing keeping your emotions under control.

· Practicing stating the obvious — "We're not getting along, why do you think that is?" — when conversation becomes stalled.

· Finding out what the other party values and be willing to trade for it.

· Never making yourself the issue.

· Finding out how the parties intend to honor their commitment once an offer is on the table.

"In the end, it's no more complicated than basic human interaction," Diamond says. "What I try to do in the book is break it down to its simplest elements. I suggest that first of all, readers pick one thing at a time to learn. Then they have a lifetime to practice."

He says he believes the keys to successful interaction include moving incrementally and valuing a wide range of viewpoints, a quality he mastered growing up in Nuremberg, where his father was sent to sell insurance.

Landing in March 1959, the family found a Germany still living in the shadow of war and dealing with its heritage of anti-Semitism. The religious leader of the synagogue where the young Stuart trained for his Bar Mitzvah is believed to have been the last surviving rabbi of the Warsaw Ghetto.

Diamond understood he could either learn to hate, or he could learn to tolerate diversity. Embrace it, even.

"If you're different, or at least perceived as different, the extent to which you are honest about this will gain you trust and credibility," Diamond writes.

For his initial encounter with the coca farmers in the steamy jungles of Bolivia, for example, he deliberately chose a three-piece suit and tie, while the growers wore rags suitable for the fields. Diamond began by playing up the disparity:

"Look at me. I couldn't be more different than you," he proclaimed through an interpreter. "I dress differently. I talk differently. I look different."

Diamond moved beyond the perceived chasm. "I think we have something in common. We both want a better life for ourselves and our children. And if we work together, we just might be able to do something together."

That "something" would grow into a lucrative banana-exporting venture that was a linchpin of the U.S. anti-drug campaign in the late 1990s.

Diamond turned his back on a journalism career that included winning a Pulitzer Prize in his 30s as part of a New York Times team investigating the crash of the Challenger space shuttle. It wasn't enough to report the news, he says; he wanted to be an agent for change.

Today, he says his most satisfying deals — in nearly half a century of making them — are those he makes every day with a flaxen-haired third-grade boy who happens to be his and his wife's only child.

"Alexander's my negotiating partner — we trade piano practice for TV," Diamond says. "He's my best negotiation."


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