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In the first paragraph of the Wall Street Journal article How Blackstone’s Chief Became $7 Billion Man, June 13, 2007, Schwarzman, the CEO and mastermind behind many leveraged buyouts, touted his deal making prowess. “[H]e [Schwarzman] wants to ‘inflict pain’ and ‘kill off’ his rivals.”

Well, at least everyone on the world knows where he stands!

There are some real sharks out there. I know: Not exactly an ah ha moment. Then, why do so many of you answer the question, “what does it mean to negotiate” with the response, “create a win­win?”

  • Is it possible that you’ve not met men of Schwarzman’s ilk?
  • Is it possible that you are an eternal optimist?
  • Or, is it that embracing the paradox of working together to create a deal can be in direct opposition with our all American zeal for a clear winner and loser?

Personally, I think that as a culture, we are very uncomfortable with paradoxes of all kinds. The light and the dark cannot co­exist, let alone come from the same source. By rejecting the paradox of competition and collaboration at the bargaining table, you set yourself up for a fall, often in the form of moralizing. “Isn’t that unethical?” “That’s not fair!” “It’s not my job to look out for your interests.”

There are many people negotiating who truly believe and live by the same ideals as does Schwarzman. Here is what you need to know about these sharks.

  • Ethical: Shark eat shark mentality is not inherently unethical behavior. We love competition and want to see a winner and a loser. You do need to watch out for fraudulent behavior, lying, and breaches of contracts. These behaviors are
  • Fair: We love fair. I read an article that talked about America’s love affair with fair. We do not mind inequality, but we do abhor unfair. The problem is that even sharks have their own definition of Chances are it is not the same definition that you have.
  • Responsibility: It is your responsibility to look out for your company when negotiating. Plain and simple. It is not the other guy’s responsibility to watch out for your best interests, no matter how many clichés someone many use about being a “team”, “working together”, or “partnering”, the other company is out for their own good.

Confused? Don’t worry. Just embrace the paradox that we must work at odds with one another in order to work together!