Building Coalitions: Apple and the Art of Persuasion

What is the definition of negotiation? Some would say it is a process of value creation and collaboration, both of which require persuasion and effective framing

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Persuasion

Whether you have one of its ubiquitous products or even its rivals offerings, you most certainly have heard of Apple, the United States electronics giant whose phoenix-like rise to the top of the business world has inspired legions of fans and detractors alike. Some would say the definition of negotiation is the art of persuasion, but as Apple has demonstrated, effective negotiation may lie in the proper framing of the dialogue between counterparts.

The Apple Story

Started in a garage in California, Apple has grown into a technological powerhouse of innovation that has changed the way the world works and lives. Along the way, the company has demonstrated unparalleled business acumen and leadership, both commercially and through leaders like Steve Jobs and current CEO Tim Cook.


Build powerful negotiation skills and become a better dealmaker and leader. Download our FREE special report, Negotiation Skills: Negotiation Strategies and Negotiation Techniques to Help You Become a Better Negotiator, from the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School.


Definition of Negotiation: Tim Cook’s Persuasion Skills and Their Application to Negotiation Strategies

Writing for Entrepreneur magazine, Brian Patrick Eha interviewed Program on Negotiation (PON) at Harvard Law School Chair Robert Mnookin to discuss how Cook can teach business leaders and negotiators alike a thing or two about the art of persuasion.

Back in 2013, Cook was brought before the US Congress to discuss Apple’s purported corporate income tax avoidance. By keeping funds stashed offshore, it was believed that Apple was not paying its fair share.

Indeed, while many expected Apple to take a beating for being perceived as not paying its taxes, such was not the case.

Instead, through effective framing of the conversation, a consistent message, and an open, conversational demeanor, Tim Cook ensured that the session instead turned into a broader discussion of the US tax code and its implications for American industry.

Cook explained to the panel that the American tax system places constraints on American corporations’ capital movement capabilities in relation to foreign competitors who do not have such restrictions.

According to Robert Mnookin, Tim Cook’s effective framing of the issue, which is “…not simply changing the conversation so much as thinking through what frame might bring the most persuasion for the particular audience you’re dealing with,” allowed for constructive, rather than critical, dialogue to take place.

After framing the conversation, Cook then delivered his message that Apple paid its taxes and abides by the law wherever it operates.

Moreover, Cook told Congress that tax code reform is well within their purview.

Advance preparatory work and clearly mapping out your counterpart‘s and your own interests is the foundation for a successful negotiation.

Additionally, role-playing, or acting out the negotiation beforehand, can greatly aid you at the bargaining table by helping you work through the various scenarios you are likely to face during the negotiation. This will allow you to practice your reactions to each and help you maintain control while at the bargaining table. Mnookin has no doubt that Tim Cook made use of this time-tested practice to hone his performance before the panel.

According to Mnookin, “to be able to stay calm and even friendly in the face of adversity and someone being very challenging or aggressive” is an essential component of negotiation. Reciprocity would hurt you here, as responding to hostile questions with angry answers will not lead to constructive dialogue.

Instead, it is better to be both friendly and open during talks. Indeed, by the end of the meeting, Cook and Apple received praise from the panel for the company’s impact on the modern world, a much different tone than many expected but one effectively cultivated by Apple’s Tim Cook through adept use of the art of persuasion.

What do you think of Apple and the art of persuasion? Leave a comment below.

Related Negotiation Skills Article:  Negotiation Situation Examples: Team Building and Negotiating Skills and Negotiation Tactics


Build powerful negotiation skills and become a better dealmaker and leader. Download our FREE special report, Negotiation Skills: Negotiation Strategies and Negotiation Techniques to Help You Become a Better Negotiator, from the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School.


Originally posted in 2013.

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