Professor Robert H. Mnookin

Professor Robert H. Mnookin ’68

Harvard Law School Professor Robert Mnookin ’68 appeared on PBS NewsHour on August 25. He spoke with economics correspondent Paul Solman about the rewards and challenges of negotiation. Mnookin is the author of “Bargaining with the Devil: When to Negotiate, When to Fight,” which was published by Simon & Schuster in February.

In the segment, Mnookin, chairman of Harvard Law School’s Program on Negotiation, discussed the art of negotiation during tough economic times. In two separate role play exercises, Mnookin coached students Erum Sattar LL.M. ’10 and David Baumwell ’10, who portrayed “typical debt-hobbled homeowners,” as they tried to negotiate extensions on their mortgages with their bankers, played by Michael Aktipis ’10 and Jared Craft ’10.

Watch the broadcast:

According to Mnookin, tone and language are key considerations in successful negotiation. He also stresses that many more things are negotiable than people assume.

“My approach is always to see if I can lead and persuade the other side to engage in problem-solving,” he said. “A key principle is, you have got to be able to dispassionately try to think through in a circumstance where your emotions are likely to want to take over, what are my alternatives? What are the costs and benefits of different courses of action? And that’s very challenging.”

In “Bargaining with the Devil,” Mnookin offers case studies from history as well as private disputes in which he has served as mediator and arbitrator, outlining how and why people decide to negotiate and the factors that influence the bargaining process. In each case, he evaluates the wisdom of the decision and addresses the ethical and moral issues that arise. To read more and watch video of Mnookin discussing his book, click here.

At a reception in February, Mnookin participated in a panel discussion on his book with several faculty members, including HLS Dean Martha Minow, Assistant Professor Gabriella Blum, and Lecturer on Law David Hoffman, founding partner, Boston Law Collaborative. They were also joined by Margot Strom, Founder and Executive Director of the organization Facing History and Ourselves.

In 2000, Mnookin co-wrote “Beyond Winning: Negotiating to Create Value in Deals and Disputes,” with Scott Peppet ’96 and Andrew Tulumello ’96. That book and his work at the Program on Negotiation were profiled in the article “Bargain Hunting”, which was featured in the Fall 2000 Harvard Law Bulletin.