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Transcend! Quo Vadis Negotiator – ¡Trasciende! Quo Vadis Negociador – Dr. Habib Chamoun-Nicolás



Habib Chamoun-Nicolas, PhD. – United States

Visiting Scholar at the University of St Thomas – Houston – Texas


Transcend Quo Vadis Negotiator FOREWORD

In this ground-breaking and inspiring book, Dr. Habib Chamoun-Nicolas generously explains how the key to dealing with others successfully requires first looking inward.

That’s because whenever you negotiate with self, you implicitly define yourself. All that you do and say reflects aspects of your nature, your personality, and your character. Those actions comprise who you truly are, especially who you are in relation to others. Transcend! illuminates that reality and brings into focus two complementary insights that are essential for negotiators. One of them may seem obvious. The other is less so, though no less important.

The first is that negotiation is a profoundly human activity, one that can bring out the best in us, but only if we recognize the full consequences of the choices that we make. When we’re not self-aware, we risk behaving in ways that conflict with our ideals.

Transactions of any sort raise moral issues about what we owe—if anything—in terms of fairness to the parties with whom we deal. Issues of fairness come up in different forms. One is honesty. For example, is it ever permissible to lie in negotiation? Many people would say never (or very rarely), though we may wonder whether they themselves truly live up to that principle. People start to squirm if asked whether nondisclosure— withholding key facts without lying overtly—is any better, given that the intent to mislead is no different. In practice, negotiators seem to apply a double standard by being comfortable with their own evasions, yet angry when others are less than fully candid.

Tactical choices in the course of negotiation raise moral issues, as well. Is it okay to bluff or use false deadlines to force concessions? “Certainly,” some people might claim. “It’s a game like poker. Everyone understands the rules.” Yes, sharp bargainers may prevail in some circumstances, but that attitude imposes a social cost. It casts negotiation as a contest, with a winner and loser. The participants themselves are foes, not potential partners. That competitive view isn’t universal, of course, but it makes people who do not subscribe to it approach the table with some caution, lest they be manipulated. As a result, they may hesitate to trust others and reveal their true priorities. When that happens, opportunities for value-creating solutions can be squandered.

That leads us to the third level of moral issues, the fairness of the ultimate outcome—who gets what share of the pie. The question does not have an easy answer. Much depends on circumstances. Perhaps a customer shopping for a new car need not worry about how the dealership makes out. Even if she is well-prepared, the salesman will know more about the market and his and/or the dealership’s needs than she ever will. If she makes an unreasonable offer, the salesperson can always say no. But imagine that those parties reach agreement, and it is now nine years later. She’s considering selling the well-used vehicle to a teenager for whom it will be his first car. Many would argue that she should think twice about squeezing him out of every last dollar that he’s earned in his after-school job.

At the outset, I stated that the moral dimension of negotiation is obvious. That may be true in the abstract, but in actual practice, the pressures of the process (including balancing competing responsibilities to oneself and to others) can narrow our vision and undermine our ability to live up to our professed values.

It is on this plane that Transcend! makes a unique contribution to negotiation wisdom. Its conceptual framework links together important skills that not only can enable a negotiator to maintain perspective, but can also enhance his or her substantive performance. Among these are prudence, fortitude, temperance, and discernment. I’m tempted to call those attributes “virtues,” as they are most certainly aspects of character. I have stayed with “skills,” however, to make clear the practicality of this work. Each of the skills is explained with concrete examples, and there are reflective exercises, as well. The point is that we can all deepen these qualities, through practice and attention.

The book you are holding provides numerous compelling explanations and applications. Here are two examples: First, Chapter 5 describes temperance as “the act of creating order in our own self as a kind of self- preservation, a habit that defends and protects us from ourselves, due to the fact that humans have a strong tendency of going against one’s own nature.” In short, we need poise and balance to perform at our best.

Renowned mediator David Hoffman speaks of the importance of “bringing peace into the room” when he handles other people’s disputes. As this book makes clear, negotiators likewise must strive for the same kind of balance. Emotions are contagious. If we are tense and internally conflicted, others will sense it and respond accordingly.

The nature of interpersonal dynamics is developed further in the concluding chapter on discernment (an important word that I can’t recall seeing in any other negotiation text). A section warns of the danger of self- fulfilling prophecies that occur when “whatever we infer about a person becomes a reality, not because the inference is correct, but because our fearful or defensive action produces a similar reaction in the other. The inference causes us, rather than dealing with a person, to deal with a ghost that we have created of that person.”

Amen to that.

In hindsight, it’s sometimes possible to recognize how others may have misread our defensiveness as hostility and how we may have projected our own feelings on them. But then, it’s too late. The challenge—indeed, the imperative—is anticipating that possibility and engaging others in an open and constructive manner. By summoning the best in ourselves, we can endeavor to evoke the best in others with whom we deal.

Michael Wheeler

Harvard Business School



The world of negotiation books—for both students and practitioners—can largely be grouped into several categories.

First, there are numerous books that report on the works and practices of great negotiators (Stanton, 2011) offering biographical perspectives on these individuals and highlighting their conduct in significant negotiation events. Many of these works are in the fields of political science and international relations, where it is more ‘professionally acceptable’ to perform scholarly work by reporting information about the substance, structure and evolution of complex deals, such as boundary disputes, peace-building and peacekeeping efforts, tribal conflicts, and resolution of major economic, political and social conflict. In reading these, one learns a great deal about the complexity of the dispute, while also gaining insight into the talents and skills of the key negotiators.

Second, one can find more academic ‘textbooks’ on negotiation, which blend an extensive body of research together into a summary of the ‘science’ of negotiation (e.g., Lewicki, Saunders and Barry, 2015; Thompson, 2014) . These books integrate the findings from many scientifically designed and controlled studies, each studying one or two key variables (e.g., differences in personality type, tactic use and effectiveness, context in which the negotiation occurs), into a synthetic whole that provides multiple lenses and perspectives on the complex interpersonal and group dynamics of a negotiation. While these books are largely descriptive in their presentation of the research findings, they are also mildly prescriptive—but quite antiseptic—in offering their advice about how to use the research to improve one’s negotiation practice.

Finally, the vast majority of books on negotiation are written for the practicing negotiator, and offer ‘distilled’ wisdom about how to understand the give and take of a negotiation and how to master this give and take. A few of these books offer their prescriptive advice by grounding it in the solid findings of the research tradition, but most offer helpful tips, techniques and tools that a negotiator can use in order to ‘win’ (e.g., Fisher, Ury and Patton, 2013; Latz, 2004). These books usually reflect the professional background of the author (e.g., real estate, purchasing, law, business transactions) and are replete with examples, vignettes, war stories and other applications designed to make the key points. While many have high value for the practicing negotiator, few offer a truly comprehensive perspective on the complex dynamics of parties working to find an acceptable solution to a nagging, complex and pervasive dispute.

Remarkably, Transcend! Quo Vadis Negotiator does not conveniently fit any of these categories. Rather, Habib Chamoun and his collaborators offer us the opportunity to take a personal journey into ourselves as negotiators. The authors’ perspective is that we must know ourselves as human beings—more than just our strengths and weaknesses, but also our character— before we can seriously engage in the planning, strategy and tactical execution of a complex deal. The proper lenses for this self-knowledge are the organizing theme of this book and, as Dean David Noel Ramirez notes in his introduction to the Spanish version, are ‘precepts that have existed since ancient times’: Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, Temperance and Discernment.

This book makes three major contributions that offer significant enrichment to both the budding negotiator and the highly experienced dealmaker. First, it does not try to follow the typical ‘know thyself’ road of many similar books by dealing with the simple ‘paper and pencil’ self-assessments typically used in negotiating seminars and courses, such as indicators of conflict management style, leadership or communication style, or basic fundamental dimensions of personality. Instead it encourages the reader to delve deeply into his or her personal values, since these values are likely to be the strongest determinant of the fundamental mindset and personal biases that an individual brings to the negotiation table. Second, it is usefully prescriptive in that it outlines the five basic values (virtues) that must govern a productive, mutual gains negotiation, and implicitly creates the tools for negotiators to assess where they personally stand on those values. Finally, by addressing negotiation character directly, the authors are also able to offer advice on how to begin to reason through value dilemmas, particularly ones involving the use of dishonest and deceptive tactics. As any experienced negotiator knows, these are the tactics which may help one gain short-term advantage but also can create irreparable damage to any long-term relationship with a strategic partner. As such, Transcend! offers a most valuable and unique contribution to the negotiation literature, one that should be required reading for all who expect to spend a life and career in ongoing negotiation and dispute resolution.

Roy J. LewickiMax M. Fisher College of Business, The Ohio State University



Habib Chamoun has done a remarkable job of creating insights into the ‘soul’ of negotiation, combining perspectives on anthropology, ethics and theology into a new perspective he calls ‘transcendental negotiation’. Readers will find a refreshing perspective on negotiation, not just as technique, but as a way of leading a virtuous life.

Dr. Roy Lewicki Abramowitz Professor of Management and Human Resources Emeritus, Max M. Fisher College of Business The Ohio State University

Habib Chamoun provides a glimpse into the mind of the transcendent negotiator: prudence, justice, temperance, fortitude and discernment play important roles. Since every human interaction implies the possibility of negotiation, he urges us to transcend the transactional, offering an appealing meditation on elements of negotiation practice that are too often overlooked.

Dr. Larry Susskind MIT Professor and Co-Founder Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School

Every time you negotiate, you define your values. Yes, you seek to advance your own interests—or those of the individuals and organizations you represent. But all the actions you undertake—everything that you do and say— also establish your character.

But what (if anything) do you owe the people across the table with whom you negotiate? Must you always be fair? Do you have to be honest? More fundamentally, what is fairness and honesty in negotiation?

Dr. Habib Chamoun-Nicolás’s bold and inspiring book Transcend! addresses these challenging questions with wisdom drawn from his own impressive experience and scholarship. He explains how success in negotiation (and in life more generally) requires prudence, justice, fortitude, temperance, and discernment. His groundbreaking book deserves a place of honor on every serious negotiator’s bookshelf.

Dr. Michael Wheeler MBA Class of 1952 and Professor of Management Practice Harvard Business School, Soldiers Field of Boston, Massachusetts

Dr. Habib Chamoun-Nicolas has once more performed in this book a truly impressive work. He not only surprises us with his superb and enjoyable style of writing that once you start reading, it is impossible to put down, but also by his profound knowledge of very diverse situations on the subject of negotiation and his very assertive approach to historical recollections. A book written from wisdom, intelligence, joy and kindness. A fascinating reading even for laymen on the subject, as in my case.

Dr. Carlos G. Wagner President of CEFYP (Center of Phoenician and Punic Studies) Universidad Complutense Madrid, Spain

Professor Chamoun-Nicolas is an expert in international negotiations and in the Phoenician trade history. In his new book Transcend! Professor Chamoun-Nicolas delves into an anthropological aspect of successful negotiators where character is of utmost importance. He dissects the negotiation process and discusses how a negotiator’s character influences negotiations, citing honesty, integrity and justice as the basis for long-term successful negotiations, such as in the international diplomacy arena. Transcend! is a must-read for anyone who wants to be a successful negotiator.

Massoud Maalouf, Former Ambassador of Lebanon to Canada, Poland and Chile.

As usual, Dr. Habib Chamoun Nicolas has provided an extraordinary work on negotiation. This new contribution to the discipline will surely serve all the public: researchers, diplomats, students, experts and practitioners. This brilliantly written book is easy to read and invites the reader who is interested in negotiating to know oneself and learn about each other in order to carry out together a win-win negotiation.

Dr. Doudou Sidibé Scientific Coordinator International Biennale on Negotiation Novancia Business School of Paris France

Dr. Habib Chamoun-Nicolas and his collaborators offer in Transcend! an ethical way of functioning not only for negotiators, but also for those in any leadership position. The ancient Cardinal Virtues of Justice, Prudence, Temperance, and Fortitude provide the lens through which discerned action occurs that moves beyond the transactional toward the transcendental. Transcend! imparts a vision of collaboration that is co- responsible and will help leaders, including those of religious congregations, be more effective in their functioning.

Very Rev. Frank Donio, S.A.C., D.Min. Director Catholic Apostolate Center Washington, D.C.

Habib writes in a friendly tone, just as he teaches his courses and workshops, and splashes his work with anecdotes captivating the reader and immersing him into it to discover and enjoy the depth of the writings. Transcend! Quo Vadis Negotiator presents us with a scheme that goes beyond the win-win. He mentions that if you want to have a negotiation that will endure long term, as did the Phoenicians more than two thousand years, it must be done ethically and in accordance with natural law. Just as important as the result is the way to reach to it. We must know how to discern and exercise the virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance, opposing the ego, hypocrisy, arrogance and envy. Chamoun-Nicolas shows us that trust and active listening are important, while distrust and intrigue are cancers of negotiation. The book reminds us that the person is worthy for what he is, and not for what he has nor for what he does. Being a good negotiator is to connect with yourself and to find out the meaning of your actions. Every human relationship involves a negotiation, therefore I consider Transcend! Quo Vadis Negotiator essential reading.

Antonio Sánchez Díaz de Rivera Vice President UPAEP University, Puebla, Mexico

Dr. Chamoun’s book Transcend! Quo Vadis Negotiator is written in a deep and profound humanistic and spiritual style. The great experiences inside the book are entertaining and funny, making the readers to connect and to look back at the stories. The business-based success stories are the heart in Transcend! Quo Vadis Negotiator, with the author succeeding to open first with the cardinal virtues to make it wide and transcendental.

Prof. P. Dr. Karl Josef Wallner Rector of the Philosophy and Theology Benedict XVI Pontifical University

Holy Cross Cistercian Monastery, Heiligenkreuz, Austria

This book offers an anthropological perspective on negotiation, focusing on the important moral dimension of negotiators. Incorporating examples from historical and religious texts, along with anecdotes from his own life, Chamoun-Nicolas draws readers into his reflections on negotiation through the ages as he highlights the ethical principles of a successful negotiator.

Audrey Tetteh, Education Program Director ICONS Project University of Maryland

This book is really powerful because it has the power of witness of life and consistency of the author. It also is powerful because it will make you take a break from your busy life to reflect on what we need to learn or strengthen in our lives to achieve our negotiating objectives.

I am certain that if we strive to apply what the author proposes with his close, wise and anecdotal style, we will be better human beings, excellent negotiators and certainly more integral and happy people. Negotiations will then be a tool and not a purpose in themselves.

I invite you to read this text with great conviction that this will not be just another book, and surely his teachings will accompany us the rest of our lives.

Josefina Vázquez Mota First Woman Candidate by a Majority Party to the Mexican Presidency

With clear and simple manner; with theoretical and theological support; with anecdotes, stories and examples; giving us recommendations and methodologies, and inviting us to self-assess, we discover how these precepts help us in our relationships and in our daily interaction with other human beings to achieve what we are looking for.

I would summarize Transcend! in the following sentence: To be great negotiators we have to go back to the origin.

Transcend! is a must-read for all.

I conclude with this sentence from the text itself: «Discernment, prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance are the backbone of a trade or activity not subject to conventions of the day, but anthropological foundations of the first order.»

David Noel Ramírez Former Dean of Monterrey TEC

I have always believed that any change starts within; what is surrounding us is a reflection of what we think, say, do and fail to do. Everything has an impact on our environment, hence the importance of considering what the book Transcend! reminds us not only to achieve successful negotiations, but above all to be happier: the importance of learning to discern and choose correctly, be aware that we are what we repeatedly do, and the possibility of becoming extraordinary people depending on our choice. For me, freedom is the master key to all our possibilities and all our creations. The challenge is to understand that freedom and responsibility are two sides of the same coin. To be free and choose correctly, it is imperative that we are responsible for our words and actions. As stated in these pages, the first responsibility we must assume is to know ourselves to meet our own self, our essence, then connect with others and achieve prosperity. In the end, the only way to transcend is to distinguish between what feeds the ephemeral and what helps to build the eternal. We learned that where our treasure is, there is our heart. Let us not miss the opportunity to live intensely every day with great passion, transmitting that enthusiasm to everyone we meet on the road, whether in negotiations or in another context. Truth, love and defending freedom is the calling that we all share. Let us make the right decisions; we are still on time.

Armando Regil Velasco President IPEA

Daily life is a continuous act of negotiating, at home, in the office, while shopping or in public life. There are those who have not developed this ability to negotiate, and not all the ways to negotiate are the same. In today’s society, dominated by increasingly sophisticated forms of selfishness, you think about wanting to negotiate only with the objective to optimize the personal benefit, which ends up in increasingly poor human relations, where there is mistrust, abuse or indifference.

The great merit of this book is precisely that the author invites us to transcend in the negotiation. Contemporary society needs women and men who are great negotiators, who know how to manage the great values of justice, solidarity, truth or beauty, not encountering any objection to do good, do well, and always do the best possible. There are many frustrated lives living in deprivation, bitterness, sadness or loneliness for not knowing how to cultivate the art of negotiation, to transcend inside and outside the family, not wanting to demonstrate in practice the human capacity to seek happiness in the good of others, in order to experience an «I love you, I want your good, I want the best for you.» In its pages of history and illustrative and entertaining anecdotes, Transcends! Quo Vadis Negotiator makes the ideal of virtue and the good life, reminding us what it takes to build the civilization of love.

Dr. Guillermo Cantú Researcher Professor

Panamericana University México, D.F.