In much of negotiation, being 'civilised' is a cover for being cowardly. Keeping your head down, not standing up to be counted, compromising, being reasonable, putting personal feelings above profit - are all the hallmarks of the organisation man.  Avoiding stress, avoiding confrontation, are seen as hallmarks of the civilised man.  The search for some middle way is perceived as desirable, even essential.

Market forces are a zero sum game: what you win, I lose.  In commerce, profit determines the future, and the interaction of those seeking profit is the market.  Looking for a 'middle way' in the interaction is about as relevant as determining how many angels can stand on the head of a pin.

The function of capitalists – and we live in a capitalist society – is to maximise profit, and this is modified only by the law and individual conscience.  (No, driving a supplier bankrupt is not maximising profit.)

The Workshop In Negotiating Skills is much concerned with honesty, integrity and conscience.  We at HDC see no difference between stealing money from the till and giving away the company's money on the grounds that "it was becoming uncomfortable".  As negotiators, we are paid to be uncomfortable. There is no integrity in calling up false values to hide one's own cowardice and to justify mediocre performance.

These may seem harsh words.  Maybe, but they are real.  If negotiation is life, ask yourself how much formal training you have had in it.  If you are typical of most people, whether buying or selling, the answer is: none.

And it is this activity which is the basis of our economic life.  We have had no training in it.  Not facing up to the fact that one knows very little about this vitally important skill is cowardly, and recognising the fact takes courage.

Bargaining involves conflict. Most Westerners are uncomfortable with conflict. Most will not take 'unreasonable' positions; be intransigent; appear selfish or grasping.  Where their conditioning is not the cause for this, either laziness or their fear of rejection is.

It is clear that, under stress, most of us are too easily driven by forces which few recognise and even fewer can control.

We do not get the best from negotiation because of a combination of social conditioning, ignorance, insecurity, egocentricity, sloth, anger and fear.