Donald Trump claims to be an expert negotiator. And to prove it, he shows off his book, which BTW, was written by someone else. Never mind! The man supposedly knows what he is talking about!
Except that he doesn’t. And the problem with Trump’s lack of understanding about negotiation takes us directly to the reason why we must say “no” to his brand of politics. In other words, no deals with this dude! He is problem number one for US politics.
The current debate about whether he is just a bumbling idiot or an evil genius misses this essential point. Trump’s view of negotiation is that it is a zero sum game. There is nothing to gain by talk other than getting more for yourself, which, by definition, means that the other side gets less. This idea informs his beliefs about using power. The US has been weakened by participating in coalitions that do not pay us enough! And we do not need immigrants or refugees. They are useless and risky to take in. We should always demand more! And if all exchanges are essential zero sum games, this makes sense.
Except that they are not. Fisher and Ury brought out many years ago that thinking of negotiation as a zero sum game only, destroys opportunities to add value through relationship building. You can choose to destroy those opportunities by over-bargaining, but don’t complain later when you lack valuable relationships. Here is the key point — as we go forward, relationship building is precisely where the largest value added will come from. Not from owning resources, but from learning how to use them better. We learn faster when we have broader based connections. But connections do not grow on trees. On has to see their value and work to build them before they return value. Trump doesn’t understand this.
I am concerned that the longer Trump has power, the more folks will get confused about this very basic idea. They will buy into Trump’s rather infantile and dark idea of where wealth comes from (just take the oil!). And that would be a huge tragedy. That is why we should be thinking about how anti-Trump protests can evolve into an effective political force.