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  • Writer's pictureTanya S Osensky

A Lesson on the Art of Negotiation from Victor Hugo

In the world of negotiations, Victor Hugo's timeless wisdom from "Les Misérables" rings true: "Strong and bitter words indicate a weak cause."

Over my career as a transactional lawyer, I've encountered countless contract negotiations that have reaffirmed this insight. Allow me to share a real-life negotiation story that illustrates this principle.

Picture a high-stakes deal where tensions ran high. The room was charged with anticipation as both parties engaged in a verbal exchange. One person, seemingly unsure of his position, began to raise his voice and dominate the conversation.

It was a make-or-break moment, and I had a choice to make. Would I react in kind, escalating the situation further? Or would I opt for a different approach?

I chose door #2. Rather than engaging in a shouting match or escalating the situation, I decided to handle it with calmness. First I said nothing, and let the silence rest for a minute. Then, I acknowledged his concerns, showing that I valued his perspective, and quickly turned back to working towards a collaborative solution.

This experience reinforced the timeless wisdom: "Speak softly but carry a big stick." It's a proverb that beautifully encapsulates the essence of effective negotiation.

Maintaining a calm demeanor and strategic silence can allow you to defuse tension, build rapport and lead to a mutually beneficial outcome. It's a great way to wield your influence more effectively.

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