Myths and realities about The Camp System of Negotiation – Part 1
A valid opposition to what is popular
I wrote a piece recently highlighting how the advice given by numerous gurus doesn’t cut it in the real world. Such pieces that I critiqued will keep being written, and some people will continue to act and make decisions on based on them, and reap the consequences. I was about to comment on a timely piece titled “People Problems” that came out yesterday. However, I decided that I must first make an effort to clarify certain myths and misconceptions surrounding the Camp System of Negotiation. These myths – when accepted uncritically – prevent those who are unaware of this System of Negotiation from giving it a fair hearing. In the second part, I shall provide a broad overview of the realities of the Camp System. In the last piece, I shall comment on the important points “People Problems” raises up, as well as the shortcomings contained in it.
In a recent piece, Todd Camp starts with these words:
“I recently read an article at Forbes.com which I respectfully have to disagree with. The piece referenced the current stance of the Harvard Program on Negotiation regarding how to build trust and goodwill within workplace relationships by asking for advice. Anytime I see the word relationship, I ask myself, “what kind of relationship”? How many different types of “workplace” relationships require trust and goodwill?
I know what you’re thinking, “Why is the Camp Team always disagreeing with all of the status quo publications and powers that be?” And my response is simple; we were developed with a purpose of providing people a systematic process to protect themselves against professional manipulators who design and employ tactical behaviors specifically engineered for taking advantage of the “win-win”, give and take mindset.
What is interesting to me is that this compromise-based mindset has been set, conditioned, and continuously re-enforced over the past half century despite countless and countless examples as to why it is dangerous and outmatched every day.”
Todd raises a very valid point. Why is the Camp Team always outside the mainstream and always disagreeing with the status quo publications and powers that be? Well, the one answer I have come up with is that it approaches the reality of human interactions and human decision makingas these actually are, without crippling, limiting, or ‘feel-good’ assumptions of any sort. It is based on a profound realism of the world as it is, not an idealism of the world as it ought to be. It approaches decisions and decision-making as people actually make them, in their every day lives. This is at variance with both what is popularly touted as a win-win approach to human interactions and to what is taught by those who propose various rational models of individual and collective decision making.
Myths and misconceptions: We are neither Hobbesian disciples nor advocates
People negotiate for their own reasons, not yours. This is based on a vision they have in their mind’s eye. You do the same, too. They negotiate to achieve what is important to them, as do you and I. Be careful of jumping to the conclusion that this view of the reasons behind a person’s presence in a negotiation logically equates to creating the world described by Thomas Hobbes in his work “Leviathian”. Hobbes writes
“So that in the nature of man, we find three principal causes of quarrel. First, competition; secondly, diffidence; thirdly, glory.
The first maketh men invade for gain; the second, for safety; and the third, for reputation. The first use violence, to make themselves masters of other men’s persons, wives, children, and cattle; the second, to defend them; the third, for trifles, as a word, a smile, a different opinion, and any other sign of undervalue, either direct in their persons or by reflection in their kindred, their friends, their nation, their profession, or their name.
Hereby it is manifest that during the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called war; and such a war as is of every man against every man. For war consisteth not in battle only, or the act of fighting, but in a tract of time, wherein the will to contend by battle is sufficiently known: and therefore the notion of time is to be considered in the nature of war, as it is in the nature of weather. For as the nature of foul weather lieth not in a shower or two of rain, but in an inclination thereto of many days together: so the nature of war consisteth not in actual fighting, but in the known disposition thereto during all the time there is no assurance to the contrary. All other time is peace.
Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time of war, where every man is enemy to every man, the same consequent to the time wherein men live without other security than what their own strength and their own invention shall furnish them withal. In such condition there is no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building; no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”
I disagree with Hobbes on many levels. But his words of a “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short” life appear to fit in with certain charges that have been leveled against the Camp System. It is said or implied that it promotes a combative, adversarial, aggressive, ‘winner-takes-it-all’ approach to negotiation. In the book ‘3-D Negotiation: Powerful Tools to Change The Game in Your Most Important Deals”, the authors write
“Win-lose bargainers are from the old school, although you can certainly still find plenty of them plying their trade in the boardrooms, town hall basements, rented conference facilities, and the other venues where negotiations take place. Their book shelves bulge with manuals on adversarial ploys, such as Robert J. Ringer’s Winning Through Intimidation and Jim Camp’s Start with No. They battle and scrape for the best price, the biggest share of the pie, and so on. They sit down at the bargaining table intending to walk away not only with their share of the goodies, but most of yours, too.”
I haven’t read Mr. Ringer’s book. I have, on the other hand, studied, breathed and tried to live the Camp System of Negotiation. I haven’t always been successful because it is simple, not easy, and requires repeated perfect practice in order to master. It is the most realistic and authentic means of facilitating human interaction that I have encountered. I am yet to encounter a problem enroute to reaching agreement to which it doesn’t provide a solution for. The words above are a caricature of what the Camp System is, as opposed to what it actually is.
The opposition of the Camp System of Negotiation is on the basis of certain crippling assumptions not surrounding the inherent goodness (or lack of goodness) of human beings. Rather, these are around how interactions progress in the real world, and a failure to understand how those interactions – when they involve a negotiation – can result in a negotiated agreement that is profitable, ethical, and stable.
Please share your thoughts.