Conflict Resolution When Dealing with Difficult People: Shutting Down the Government and Negotiation Strategies

PON Faculty Discuss the Negotiation Strategies Used by Republicans and Democrats During the US Federal Government Shutdown of 2013

By on / Conflict Resolution

Scott Horsley, writer for National Public Radio’s “It’s All Politics,” interviewed Program on Negotiation faculty to discuss the negotiation strategies, and their pitfalls, that were used by congressional Republicans and US President Barack Obama in the government shutdown negotiations.

Power in Negotiations: Taking Risks in Negotiation

Author of Bargaining With The Devil: When To Negotiate, When To Fight, Robert Mnookin advocated for Barack Obama to take a strong position at the bargaining table, but noted the risks:

“Perhaps if he simply hangs tough, a week and a half from now, the Republicans will cave and he won’t have to do anything. But if it doesn’t happen, the consequences for all of us, for the American economy, are very, very serious.”

Joining Robert Mnookin were Program on Negotiation co-founders William Ury and Bruce Patton, both of whom co-authored the foundational integrative negotiations work Getting to Yes with fellow co-founder of the Program on Negotiation Roger Fisher.


In our FREE special report from the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School – The New Conflict Management: Effective Conflict Resolution Strategies to Avoid Litigation – renowned negotiation experts uncover unconventional approaches to conflict management that can turn adversaries into partners.

William Ury emphasizes the importance of keeping the lines of communication open when dealing with difficult people and problems, saying:

“You don’t deal with a problem with your neighbor by cutting the phone line.”

Bruce Patton discusses the reality behind negotiations and the consequences of brinksmanship, explaining,

“People assume that it’s zero-sum. And that if I hurt you, that’s good for me. And in the real world, that’s just not true. You can always both lose.”

Be sure to listen to the podcast clip in its entirety here on the NPR website.

For more insight into the government shutdown negotiations, see also:
Government Shutdown Negotiations: Robert Mnookin on NPR’s “Here & Now”
PON Chair Robert Mnookin Discusses the Stalemate Between President Obama and Congressional Republicans
Searching for a Debt Ceiling: Boehner’s Uncertain BATNA


In our FREE special report from the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School – The New Conflict Management: Effective Conflict Resolution Strategies to Avoid Litigation – renowned negotiation experts uncover unconventional approaches to conflict management that can turn adversaries into partners.

Related Conflict Resolution Article: Conflict Resolution Online – The Pitfalls of Negotiations Over Email 

Originally published on October 4, 2013.

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3 Responses to “Conflict Resolution When Dealing with Difficult People: Shutting Down the Government and Negotiation Strategies”

  1. John /

    Thanks for this!! How about similar reports from PON about negotiations in the Middle East and other parts of the world?? Reply

  2. Hoang tuyen /

    Goverment shutdown 's a strange story in my country. Goverment in my country''s willing to have the 1001 way to take the money from the Vietnamese people Reply

  3. Carl Gowan /

    Perhaps this is a case of playing to the audience instead of focusing on the base interest of each of the negotiating parties. Reply

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