The waltz, as it is commonly known, is a ballroom dance performed at close quarters by two dancers who revolve in perpetual circles to music played at three-quarters tempo; examples are The Hesitation Waltz and the Blue Danube.

The salient descriptive features of the waltz are uncannily similar to the much extolled practice of negotiation; the latter having the purported reputation of being the superlative method of resolution of conflicting interests. Yet there are fascinating similarities between this much vaunted practice and the waltz.

Excluded from consideration here are intra-family and interpersonal disputes; a mutually identifiable, recognized issue must be identified in order to consider negotiation. In the categories of disputants cited, there is a predictable absence of identification of the basic issues truly underlying the dispute.

The recommendation to employ negotiation where the parties have reached an impasse is perceived ideally, to be the most responsible route to an equitable solution. This ideal rendition of the procedure anticipates an evenhanded peace between warriors of equal strength and prowess. This expectation requires a naiveté requisite to the acceptance of an invitation to tea from the Mad Hatter.

So salutary and constructive does the ideal concept of negotiation appear that there has evolved in human society an entirely new genus and species of preacher-like being, coaches in the “art” of negotiation. These self- anointed savants (similar in stripe to the class of “motivational speakers”), rein in substantial piles of money by recounting to enthralled audiences useless aphorisms and facts which they already know, but expressed in a hyped up and” feel-good” jargon. Like the snake oil salesmen of old, these people have learned the dark art of preying upon easily impressionable people who seem to manifest, for a very brief and ephemeral moment, a sense of determined and confident direction.

These performers, dressed in expensive garb and possessed of a rich, golden voice seem to have the perverse talent to prey upon the sensitivities of the gullible who are convinced that they require a magical amulet or special incantation to succeed at their efforts, negotiation or otherwise.

Successful resolution of a disputed issue in the formalized procedure of the negotiation does not depend upon ostensible confidence, attire or personality. These features which are the grist for the mill of the “feel good” preachers usually are unrelated to the outcome of the process.

Apart from its idealized conception and the criteria urged by the” snake oil salesmen”, the negotiation process (dance) is almost always stacked in favor of one of the disputants, viz., the party whose materials or services are needed most by the other. This is the major and usual theme and situational determinant as to who sits in the “cat-bird” seat.

Aside from the stated misconceptions, negotiation is, in fact, a useful and practical way to shorten the length and mitigate the cost of a dispute. However, the parties have to pay close attention to their relative bargaining positions in order to realistically determine, for the purpose of the specific dance, who leads and who follows.


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Retired from the practice of law'; former Editor in Chief of Law Review; Phi Beta Kappa; Poet. Essayist Literature Student and enthusiast.

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