28 April 2005 | David Arminas
Terry Waite, the former envoy of the Archbishop of Canterbury, has urged businesspeople to show a morality in negotiations.
In his keynote address to the 250 delegates at the Institute of Travel Management's Annual Conference, he urged people to "get onto the wavelength of those you negotiate with to build up a relationship of trust".
Waite told SM: "What really counts in business is a sincere regard for the legitimate aspirations of the other person. A supplier has legitimate aims also. Morality enters into business and the negotiating process this way."
However, he said all deals fall apart if negotiations ignore core problems that make people behave in desperate, even apparently psychopathic ways.
Waite added negotiators should be more critical of both their successes and failures.
"My big weakness in hostage negotiations was largely that I didn't have the resources and had to do most of it myself.
"At certain times you ought to have a third party in there with you, to observe silently and who can feed back to you afterwards on how you come across."
A silent third party in negotiations "seems a fair point", according to Richard Eaton, purchasing leader for travel policy at business telecommunications firm Equant.
"You can become complacent if you have known the supplier for some time and you think only after negotiations have ended about what you should have done to get a better deal."
"Too often negotiations become a trust versus testosterone battle," said Douglas Bell, a delegate and secretary of the Scottish higher education buying consortium PROC-SNI.
"If you beat up on suppliers, then trust goes out the window. It's about compromise."
Mark Avery, head of business services at Pricewaterhouse-Coopers, and vice chairman of the ITM, said Waite's message shows the importance of the personal buyer-supplier relationship. "The result of negotiations is product, quality and delivery, but people still buy from people", he said.
Waite was a negotiator for the release of hostages during the Lebanese civil war before being captured himself in 1987. He spent almost five years in captivity at the hands of an islamic militia group.