Book By: Kathleen Kelley Reardon
Review By: Katherine Ward
Educational Planner for  Student Support Services
South Puget Sound Community College

The ability to master the art of negotiation can make the difference between success and failure in the successful development and implementation of effective new advising programs for a diverse student population, advocacy for annual advising-budget increases, or creation of an educational plan for at-risk students. Strategies suggested by Kathleen Kelley Reardon can aid in the successful application of the communication and conflict resolution methods necessary for productive negotiation. The negotiation process is not static, but ever changing and requires that the skillful negotiator strive for balance in thought and action, "Constant learning and relearning, experimentation, a blend of caution and risk in our selection of a course of action, and the words and nonverbal expressions we use--these are vital ingredients in successful negotiation" (p. 169).

Strategies presented rely heavily on pre-negotiation preparation. For those who dislike details, this may be the most difficult part of her method to embrace yet she convincingly argues that preparation and contingency planning are important for successful negotiations. Negotiators should make a sincere examination of the values and principles that guide both sides before creating an agenda and sitting down at the negotiation table. Wise negotiators clearly identify each side’s goals, priorities, histories, current circumstances, emotional issues, potential perception differences, preferred negotiation styles, and cultural influences. This research leads to fewer surprises and gives the negotiator a better chance at maintaining composure should negotiations become emotional or move to impasse.

The author cautions negotiators to be completely present when negotiating, i.e. carefully listen and observe their counterparts. It is important that they constantly monitor assumptions, perceptions, verbal and non-verbal cues expressed by both sides. Kelley Reardon advises that the reader focus on engaging in "integrative negotiation" with a "concept of cooperative sharing" (p. 8) rather than more familiar "distributive negotiation" with an "all or nothing" outcome (p. 8). Building and cultivating long-term relationships during the negotiation process is as important as the short-term successes in assuring that negotiators always act appropriately. "Framing," which entails using "analogies, images, and stories… (to) help demonstrate the existence of linkages between seemingly disparate positions" (233), is a practical example of how Kelley Reardon uses the art of verbal persuasion to change negative perceptions and keep the negotiation process on track. 

Kelley Reardon's writes in easily understood language and provides examples from real life situations that  range from inter-office to international governmental relations. Methods she suggests will improve communication and conflict resolution skills for both personal and professional situations. Strategies are applicable to a myriad of situations from negotiating an annual employment contract to proposed funding for a new educational advising program. I highly recommend this book to advisors interested in enhancing the research and communication skills necessary for negotiation success.

The Skilled Negotiator: Mastering the Language of Engagement. (2004). Book by Kelley Reardon, Kathleen. Review by Katherine Ward. San Francisco, CA. Jossey-Bass. 288 pp. Price: $27.95. ISBN #0-7879-7405-6

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