Mayhew-Hite Report        2015 Lawrence Lecture: Tales of the Master Negotiator, Roy J. Lewicki

Holly B. Cline

At first glance, haggling for vegetables at a market, the culture of the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, antique clock collecting, minivan shopping, and a conflict with a neighbor about underground plumbing may not appear to have a whole lot in common. At the 2015 Lawrence Lecture “Tales of a Master Negotiator: The Challenges of Moving Theory Into Practice,” OSU Fisher College of Business Professor Emeritus Roy J. Lewicki shared how these diverse life experiences have helped him become the “master negotiator” that he is today.

On September 22, 2015, more than one-hundred students, faculty and friends of  The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law gathered during lunch to hear Professor Lewicki discuss and reflect on his experience as a negotiator and the practical ways in which he has mastered negotiation theory. In setting forth six negotiation lessons—apprentice to the masters; beware of your assumptions; manage (and train) your team; learn when to NOT negotiate; remember to “go to the balcony” and focus on interests; and capitalize on your learned expertise through preparation—Professor Lewicki shared anecdotal and entertaining stories highlighting how he learned these six lessons the “hard way.”

In his lecture, Professor Lewicki advised students interested in Mortiz’s Program on Dispute Resolution that when trying to buy a car or haggling over the price of vegetables in the marketplace, competitive behavior carries little potential downside because no long-term relationship is at stake. To get the best agreement in such exchanges, Professor Lewicki instructed that one should expect a lot, give up little, and show you are willing to walk away.

However, in other negotiation situations, such as visiting the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul or resolving a dispute with a neighbor, hospitable and cooperative behavior is necessary to build a good reputation that, together with trust, is critical to effective negotiations and the maintenance and development of strong  relationships.

During his lecture, Professor Lewicki explained that inside of Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, where the prices of items are not posted, the store owner defers immediate business with hospitality—often by sharing a nice cup of tea and talking with the customer. The shop owner makes an effort to build a relationship with the customer, and, once a customer expresses interest in an item, the shop owner can discuss the terms of sale as the customer’s friend. Thus, Professor Lewicki concluded, immediately employing a competitive haggling strategy will likely result in an unsuccessful negotiation—and expensive price—for the customer.

After sharing his experience at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Professor Lewicki advised students to explore the other party’s perspective with questions designed to reveal his or her needs and interests, noting that it is “very much to your advantage to understand what the other party really wants.” He also recommended focusing on the other side’s strategy and tactics, pointing out that “although it is unlikely the other party will reveal his or her strategy outright—particularly if he or she is intending to use distributive tactics—you can infer this information.”[1]

Professor Lewicki’s lecture was presented by The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law Program on Dispute Resolution, and the lecture’s namesake, James K.L. Lawrence ’65, a member with Frost Brown Todd in Cincinnati who has practiced labor-relations and employment law for more than 30 years.

[1] See Lewicki, Roy J., David M. Saunders, and John W. Minton, Essentials of Negotiation, 6th ed., (New York: McGraw-Hill/Irwin, 2013).