Bargaining for Advantage by G. Richard Shell

Bargaining for Advantage: Negotiation Strategies for Reasonable People, 2nd Edition
By G. Richard Shell

I’m going to start off by saying that I recommend this book: it’s well written and it’s useful.

That is not to say that I enjoyed it. But for now, I’m going to focus on the “useful” aspect.

Bargaining for Advantage did an amazing job of teaching me a topic that I really wanted to avoid and doing so in as enjoyable a manner as possible, which just wasn’t all that enjoyable. It was kind of like having a really nice, capable guy for a dentist. He’s a nice guy, it’s a necessary experience, and wow do I not want to deal with it.

As I mentioned in a previous review, I did not find Difficult Conversations particularly useful because the conversations that book dealt with were not the ones that I find difficult. What do I find difficult? Bargaining.

So, my first reaction is to shudder in horror at the title. I hate bargaining, I consider myself quite bad at it, and I avoid it whenever possible. I don’t even like thinking about bargaining. To me, paying a higher price for something is an irritating but acceptable price to pay for not having to bargain.

Despite this, once more and for the same class, I read a book that I found painful to force my way through. However, I’m willing to acknowledge that it’s my own idiosyncrasies that made it so, and the book itself is actually quite good. It’s both well written and provides useful information and good advice on implementation.

The book has two main parts: the first half discusses the foundations of any negotiation and it just made me cringe because I didn’t want to have to deal with any of them. The second half is about the negotiation process and that, while still painful, was also somewhat soothing to my poor introverted and avoidance-heavy sensibilities. It walked me through how to deal with the six foundations previously introduced. I still don’t want to deal with them and I’m not looking forward to any actual bargaining experiences, but I do think I have a much better handle on how to approach those situations when they’re necessary.

Also, the negotiation styles and techniques were all illustrated with a plethora of examples from around the world and throughout history. The stories were all fun, fascinating, and informative. They consisted of little anecdotes about modern and historical figures, familiar and foreign cultures, and successes and failures at the bargaining table. They were pretty much the saving grace of this book for my sanity, since every time I started to worry too much about having to (oh dear god) deal with some bargaining technique myself, there would be some bit of historical or cultural trivia coming my way.

So to sum up, I hated reading it, but it was still an excellent book and I learned a lot.

3 comments on “Bargaining for Advantage by G. Richard Shell

  1. Anna says:

    Hee hee, I would like to add that for her class, Rebecca has to actually find a situation that merits bargaining and attempt to do so, so any suggestions for such a situation would be most welcome (at least for my amusement at imagining Rebecca having to do them).

    • Rebecca says:

      Urgh. I made the attempt. I really did: I did my preparation, I had my arguments, I made my arguments to my target… and I still got shot down.


      It’s still good practice, I acknowledge that, but it sure didn’t make me like negotiation any more than I did before. Although it didn’t actually make me like it any less, so that’s nice in a glass-half-full sort of way.

      • Anna says:

        Maybe next time, try something a little easier than taking on long-standing corporate and union rules. Maybe negotiate the price of some little art item at a street fair? I hope your teacher was impressed by your attempt, though!

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