SNI was Shaped by Exploring Alternatives

Jeff Cochran


We have spent time before talking about how important it is to have alternatives in negotiations.  They give you backup plans in case things don’t go how you anticipated.  It’s important to remember, though, that some alternatives are not mutually exclusive.  You can find one alternative and blend it with another course of action to find the best solution to your problem.

The following is an excerpt from the book “Dare to Prepare” by Ron Shapiro and Gregory Jordan.  It shows how finding alternatives helped create an idea that became Shapiro Negotiations Institute.

One morning in the winter of 1992 my wife, Cathi, and I took a walk on a beautiful Caribbean beach.  I had reached a point in my life where the practice of law had lost its allure for me.  I was suffering from a common case of legal burnout.  Being tied to a time sheet had less appeal than ever as my other business ventures were growing.  During the walk, we laid out the professional and lifestyle alternatives that I could explore.  The most profound thing that Cathi said to me was that she noticed how much I loved to teach.  Teaching in an academic institution didn’t appeal to me since I’m an entrepreneur at heart.  We brainstormed other teaching alternatives after looking at precedents set by people with similar interests.

Weighing alternative careers allowed me to feel that I could take control of my life.  The mere exercise allowed me to understand that I did not have to leave one thing to do another.  So a walk on the beach led to my recognition that I could stay associated with my law firm as an adviser, continue with my sports firm, and channel my passion for teaching into the founding of what would become the Shapiro Negotiations Institute.  I could then be an entrepreneur, add income and excitement, and complement my other endeavors.  Alternative outcomes are not mutually exclusive; sometimes you can set your strategy to attain a result that is a combination of them.

Our “WIN-win”

Jeff Cochran


For years, win-win has been taught in all kinds of negotiation curriculums. At SNI, we format the phrase WIN-win. We firmly believe that the best way to get what you want is to also adequately satisfy the other side’s wants. The following is an excerpt from the book “The Power of NICE” by Ron Shapiro, Mark Jankowski, and Jim Dale that explains the myth vs. reality of win-win and the difference in our use of the phrase.

The Myth of Win-Win

Negotiation experts (and amateurs) have been preaching win-win for some time. The trouble is, it’s unrealistic. The expression win-win has become more of a pop cliché than a negotiating philosophy. It’s either a winner’s rationalization for lopsided triumph, a loser’s excuse for surrender, or both sides’ phrase for when everybody is equally unhappy. There’s no such this as both parties winning identically, that is, both getting all of what they want. One party is bound to get more and one less, even if both sides are content with the outcome. The latter is possible. Both parties can be satisfied, but both cannot win to the same degree.

The Reality of WIN-win

If someone is going to come out ahead, our aim is to make sure that someone is you. That’s WIN-win. Both parties win, but you win bigger.

WIN-win is realistic. It isn’t easy-it requires focus and discipline but it is achievable. And it doesn’t turn negotiation into war. Because it’s not WIN-lose, WIN-clobber, or WIN-ransack-pillage-and obliterate. You don’t have to destroy the other side. On the contrary, you want them to survive, even thrive, in order to make sure the deal lasts and leads to future, mutually beneficial, deals. That’s The Power of Nice and WIN-win is what that power delivers.


George Gallup, America’s Great Influencer

Jeff Cochran


What makes a great influencer? In many cases, people try to get things done without understanding the other individuals involved in the process, their motivations and needs, and how they make decisions. SNI believes that to become as influential as possible, one must understand and implement four basic steps. First, one must build credibility, since without credibility and trust, no amount of logic will convince the other side. Second, one must engage emotions, since people tend to decide emotionally and collaborate with people they can connect with. Third, one must demonstrate logic, because everyone uses logic to hone in on interests and issues that are important for them. And fourth, one must facilitate action, since a decision is just a conversation until action has been taken. Mastery of these steps will improve one’s influence, facilitating the completion of more successful deals.

One of America’s most influential individuals was George Gallup. During the presidential election of 1936, he created the Gallup Poll, which became one of the most reliable measurements for determining the public’s opinions. Gallup identified a successful trend in the business world and facilitated it to fit a specific need. After listening to dinner conversations, discussions during the long trip to work, and various other daily interactions, Gallup decided to use market research, the same methods used successfully to sell dishwashers, and sneakers, for politics.

Using the data he gathered from his polls, Gallup predicted that The Literary Digest, the main source of political polling at the time, would publish an article predicting Landon’s victory based on its faulty survey results. Gallup was right. By thinking logically, he knew that the Digest used mailed-in ballots from addresses found from phone numbers or car registries to generate its polls. However, due to The Great Depression, millions of voters lived without cars or phones. Therefore, their voices would be left unheard. By surveying the “average voter”, Gallop was able to determine that America would favor Roosevelt for President. He did his polling by conducting door-to-door interviews. Unlike most polls at the time which surveyed large, unscientifically selected groups, Gallup used significantly smaller groups that were methodically chosen to gather his research

Gallup gathered his facts by engaging the public’s emotions, being approachable, and making a personal connection with the public. He accomplished this by conversing with people from all social classes rather than just waiting passively to receive a marked up piece of paper. Gallup sought to not only cover the populist views on politics, but also on education, hopes, fears, hobbies, ethics, religion, economics, law, and equality as well. He was able to identify what interests/ issues were the most important to Americans and to shed light on their current status.

It was of utmost importance to Gallup for the integrity of his work to remain untarnished, swearing never to conduct solicited polling from a special interest group or from an organization with a specific plan. He also made the personal choice never to vote himself to ensure that he would not influence the views of those he was polling or raise any question about bias in his reporting. This sacrifice built credibility for his work.

Lastly, just as with many other great influencers, he was able to change his procedures to maintain his trustworthy reputation. In 1948, when he ceased polling two weeks before Election Day, Gallup predicted the wrong outcome. After this incident he stated, “We are continually experimenting and continually learning”, and the Gallup Poll has never been wrong about an election since.

Identify Types – Know What Kind of “Difficult” You’re Up Against

Jeff Cochran


Before you meet with a person, you should do a little homework. Making identification an automatic habit will help ease this step and better your skills. First do some research to learn about the person and their background, reputation, and even quirks. The more you know about the person before you meet him or her, the better prepared and less surprised you’ll be by their behavior. Next make observations each time you encounter the person, watch closely, and listen carefully. Being aware of subtle cues from and verbal and nonverbal communication including body language can help you pick up on feelings and intentions. Finally, probe to help bond and find common ground even with challenging personalities.

There are three types of difficult people:

1. The Situationally Difficult: Those people whose situation or circumstances make them difficult

• Normally nice people who become difficult under stress
• Their reactions are out of proportion to the event

Success Technique – Once you address their emotion, negotiations can proceed

2. The Strategically Difficult: Those people who believe being unreasonable is effective

• People who make you feel as if they are “up to something”
• People who try to make you “play by their rules”

Success Technique – If you address the tactic, they will modify their behavior.

3. The Simply Difficult: Those people with an ingrained personality characteristic

• People who make demands but do not explain why
• People who are difficult regardless of the situation

Success Technique – If you balance the power, you have a better chance of success.