Much is negotiable if you know how Consultant shows skill in daily life

November 10, 1993|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Staff Writer

Matters involving God and gravity are not negotiable. Everything else is up for grabs.

Such as where to have Thanksgiving dinner, the price of a car and the terms of a loan.

"Very few things in life are non-negotiable," says Steve Cohen, who will offer a daylong how-to class, "The Art of Negotiation," next week in Glen Burnie. The class comes just in time for

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JTC last-minute chat on where to have Thanksgiving dinner and in plenty of time to strike deals on holiday presents.

The class is an outgrowth of business courses Mr. Cohen has taught at Anne Arundel Community College, but is designed to teach skills that can be used at the dinner table as well as across the business table.

"We live in a world where there is an incredible amount of negotiating going on. The things that people don't call negotiating really are negotiating -- things like going to dinner," he says.

Among the questions a simple dinner can raise: If one person wants salad and the other seafood, is there a restaurant they can agree on? Can they go to a salad place tonight and a seafood house another time? How set in their opinions are they?

Mr. Cohen, 45, does work that involves negotiating: The Cape St. Claire resident owns Jason's Music Center in Pasadena and serves as a consultant to small businesses, often negotiating leases and loans for them.

Depending on the circumstances, negotiating can take different forms. If a person is buying a one-time item and the buyer and seller will never see each other again, it may not be so important for both parties to walk away happy.

But in other instances, maintaining a long-standing relationship between the parties is more important than the specifics of the arrangement. The last instance applies to close friends and relatives -- and where to go for Thanksgiving dinner, Mr. Cohen says.

This will make the fourth time Mr. Cohen has held the class.

The how-to course includes such skills as breaking a deadlock, formal versus informal stances, going into talks knowing what the best alternative is, learning what to expect, knowing one's bottom line, understanding one's own strengths and weaknesses -- and what the other side perceives them to be -- and the difference between what is fair and what is right.

The class also covers the difference between what is negotiable and what isn't. The price of oranges at the grocery store is less negotiable than the price of a car, for example. But, says Mr. Cohen, if you aren't sure if the price is negotiable, ask.

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