Lessons about Negotiation from the US Shutdown

Now that we have seen the resolution (or postponement) of the impasse over the US budget and debt ceiling that shutdown the US government, what does it tell those of us who are interested in the dynamics of negotiation? Could we have predicted the outcome? Would principled negotiation have worked better in the long term?

In this piece in the Conversation, the fantastic website that helps bring academic work to a broader audience, I argue that the messiness of the negotiations and the one-sidedness of the eventual outcome were probably not predictable through any of our existing models of negotiation.

I value the work of many of our well-known negotiation theorists such as Fisher, Ury and Patton, Monookin and  Kornhauser and Cass Sunstein, because they help us to analyse the many variables at play in negotiation. They sharpen our focus on the specific dynamics of the bargaining process and help us to better understand what does and does not work. But my view is also that these approaches can’t adequately capture everything that occurs in negotiation. People don’t always negotiate as we would predict they should. Power is remarkably fluid, elusive and impossible to fit into any ‘model’ of negotiating behaviour.

Heretical views, and I know.  I am going out on a limb here. But the more I work in the field of dispute resolution, the stronger my views grow.

What do you think?