A Life of Negotiation
In the nearly 40 years of my career,
I feel like I have a heavy predestined karma.
From the first month of working
as a young engineer to the last day before retiring,
I was constantly wandering around the world,
sleeping in hotels,
working in corridors
or offices everywhere.
there’s probably not a single airport in the world that
I haven’t been to,
not a single plane
I haven’t flown.
Having worked in more than 80 countries,
negotiating contracts in 30 capitals,
the total value of contracts
I negotiated is more than 60 billion dollars.
I have worked with a wide range of clients and partners,
of all cultures,
and experienced all backgrounds and risks.
I have many failures
and many successes.
The number of times I fell can’t be counted,
but I can’t even remember the honor.
Over the years,
I have also received encouragement from colleagues
and friends to write about negotiations
and tell stories of the past.
Being a non-literary person,
living away from home for many years,
I am often afraid that
I do not have enough words
to describe all the situations of negotiations.
Often these sessions are difficult,
complicated and sometimes even headless,
so they require a solid pen to describe.
I was even more hesitant
when I saw that in bookstores
there were already a lot of books on negotiation,
even many other subjects
such as project management,
So I thought that writing more books would not be useful.
I was also curious to see what contents were inside the books on display,
and found that most of the professional books were
of a didactic nature:
recommending to practice eating,
analyzing and summarizing;
how to be psychological,
how to explain;
What customs and manners should
I follow when visiting and negotiating in other countries…
And I had the feeling that
I was reading something very foreign,
without much experience,
while my 40 years of career,
meeting hundreds of delegations from all over the country,
discussing various projects left me
with memories quite different from the books I curiously read.
There are even books that consider negotiation
as a “science” and not a “skill”,
or better yet,
Then there are situations
where the above books don’t cover anything.
do not describe the difficulty of internal negotiations
before going to external negotiations;
or negotiations with the personnel they send,
to arrange their titles and powers;
And if the results are good,
how are the rewards and punishments?
Some even asked their wives
and children to accompany them,
on the grounds that the negotiations would inevitably last
for months or years.
In my experience,
internal negotiation is as important as external negotiation,
because there is internal unity and consistency,
only the delegates we send can do the job!
books in Vietnam say very little about the problems
that have to be posed
when we sit in front of foreigners,
not only we do not know them before,
but also completely unfamiliar with culture,
customs and sometimes language
if we do not speak the same language.
like all the countries that have been integrated,
will have to interact daily with foreigners,
this section in the book cannot be ignored.
It should also be added that in many countries,
the custom of negotiation is also associated with corruption.
It’s a pity that society has such diseases.
But if this is not mentioned,
at least briefly,
then the book will not really fulfill its mission,
because simply in the above countries,
if there is no gesture to help customers “satisfied”,
no matter how much negotiation,
it will never reach the destination.
in today’s negotiations,
especially when it comes to technical projects
such as infrastructure,
delegates never go alone,
always with the support of banks,
I once led a delegation of 200 experts,
including 5 banks and 3 law offices.
These people have a duty to remain impartial whether
they work for the same side,
friend or foe alike.
it is not easy to find ways to shape
and manipulate them to the will of the client,
and not everyone masters this art of debating.
The renegotiation often uses English,
German, or Japanese,
but when it comes to foreign languages,
it is impossible to forget the accompanying culture…
Not to mention that
the delegate sometimes has to understand the business laws,
not only of his own country but also of the host country,
as well as in the places
that will be chosen for resolution
if the contract is unfortunately deadlocked during construction.
Then, as negotiations drag on for months,
how patient and discreet the person sent to negotiate must be
in order to achieve the desired outcome for his or her collective.
because experience shows
that many projects are negotiated for three or four years,
such as a nuclear power plant.
I even saw an electricity project in India
that was given 10 years of life
by a colleague of mine in the company
The negotiations are not over yet!
It’s natural to be discreet.
How many pairs of eyes are watching their work,
including opponents from other countries
and members of the investor,
because when sitting for a long time with partners,
it is difficult to hide their advantages and disadvantages.
Revealing a number,
revealing a disappointment
or a fact that makes one’s side more optimistic all have the potential
to create an adverse situation.
So even keeping a secret for a long time is an art.
To be honest,
I did not find clear answers
to these questions in the books sold in bookstores.
there are not many books that detail these particular situations.
Most of the books are like classical songs,
like this and that,
just like preparing candidates for the exam.
And of course,
when entering the conference table,
anyone who is sent to negotiate will have a hard time forgetting that
they have the bleak fate of candidates
who are about to enter exam season!
voice sometimes even squeaky when having to speak.
Then, when they are more familiar,
people inevitably confuse the interests of the collective
with the individual,
sometimes invite pride into the game,
and ultimately do not find the expected results.
Whether in terms of form or content,
going to negotiations as if taking an exam is a huge mistake.
Negotiating is an art that must be instilled as instinct,
not a technique that needs to be learned and absorbed
before giving an answer.
But as art,
it must bring us to a happy,
How can a contract be reached
if the two parties do not agree and disagree.
So the contract must be fun!
But when happy,
both sides are happy?
And if we are happy,
we can share the joy and intimacy together?
Art must allow us to unite humanity,
not the two factions looking at each other as enemies,
if not hating each other like wolves about to eat each other.
I don’t want to use the word difficult to describe a negotiation,
because as long as there is difficulty,
there will be frustration.
Negotiating is to find consensus,
an agreement that is acceptable to both parties;
is an objective recognition that
the solution of both parties is both fair and realistic;
is to solve all the problems to move forward together.
That means both sides are looking at each other rather
than in fierce opposition.
Art is like that.
Since spreading the arts is a difficult task,
perhaps sharing experiences in different situations is the most effective way.
Readers will be surprised at how warm
and cheerful conversations can easily come
to fruition in a way that is both mild and quick,
sometimes even fleeting,
when both sides get to know each other early on.
After many years of practice,
I really understood that
negotiation is simply about finding a win-win for both parties,
a fair and balanced solution
after the parties have thoroughly understood what the other party really wants.
The key to success lies in “understanding
and seeing what each side wants”.
It looks easy,
but a lot of negotiations stumble
because of not mastering this basic,
no matter how simple or complex the topic of negotiation.
But if the parties understand it then
when the conference table will try to listen to what the other side wants,
and if both parties are willing to do it,
more than half the problem is solved!
Those who have a talent for negotiation are very sensitive,
and having a very sophisticated intuition,
so that the two sides soon guess each other’s ideas.
Doing so must require experience,
but in addition to experience,
it also requires a positive attitude of inquiry,
unleashing intuition to the extreme,
bringing a sincere mind to listen to guesses,
both the intention of one’s side as well as that of the opposite party.
Then, encourage initiative,
activate imagination to resolve differences,
and jointly find a balanced solution that
brings maximum benefits to both parties.
* * *
With these thoughts in mind,
I decided to write this book with a completely different spirit.
I would like to offer you some personal lessons that
I have learned during my 40 years of career.
I want to convey what I have actually learned.
There are mistakes,
there are good deeds,
all of them are told for readers to ponder.
This book is written for those who are curious
and want to learn about negotiation.
You may be a student wondering about career options,
or the chair of a team
that is about to come to the negotiating table,
or the President or CEO of a company invited to send a team to negotiate.
In a narrative style,
I hope the book is easy to read for all types of readers.
The book can even help those
who are studying human psychology
and how to behave wisely,
so as to quickly get consensus from a small group of people.
The content of the book is oriented towards negotiation,
but focuses on the so-called art.
many times readers see me using the words negotiate,
get a contract,
or go to a conference table…
The figurative meaning of those words is also only
defines only one definition:
trying to find consensus,
drawing a pattern of exchange,
and sometimes long-term collaboration.
I am also very grateful to the Saigon Economic Times
for giving me the opportunity
to write a number of articles on negotiation over the years.
I did not expect the re-posted articles
to cause such a good and widespread response,
especially in the business world,
even after 6,
7 articles have been published,
there are quite a few people who want me to write more.
Therefore, the book will publish (or extract) both of these articles,
rewritten in a more refined form.
* * *
From a certain perspective,
it can be affirmed that
negotiation is something everyone has to do every day,
Living in a society,
-person to person,
in the hustle and bustle,
in an economic environment based on exchange as a basis,
negotiation is inevitable.
Getting on the bus to find a seat,
buying an apple,
playing with children
and grandchildren… are all situations
that will lead to a big
or small negotiation with the driver,
the fruit seller
or the demands of the children,
let alone buying a house and buying a car.
When it comes to the office,
salary increase are all times to negotiate skillfully,
Even getting married,
asking a wife to get married is just negotiation.
But unlike the above behaviors,
often we have to negotiate with people we don’t know
before but still have to have some exchange with them,
have to build some credibility in a moment,
or make a certain commitment in a moment.
Today’s society has no place for people to avoid this.
I also want to avoid contact.
Without social exchange there is no life.
In the past,
social life was different.
It is normal to be reserved with strangers.
At that time,
people did not have the need to exchange like today,
a lot of people find it “fit”
if unfortunately they have to awkwardly chat
with people they don’t know,
let alone negotiate.
the demand for everything is very high,
social exchange requires presence every second of every minute.
Those who are bold,
have an undeniable advantage.
Today, a “match” or avoidant attitude is just another proof
that you don’t understand the psychology
of your partner and perhaps even yourself.
or bring benefits to your side
while still making the other party feel
that it is beneficial to them both.
The art is there!
* * *
I also want to tell the reader
that this book is not going to be the theoretical dogmas of negotiation.
All will be experience
and experience only.
The first is life experience.
I have lived abroad for nearly 50 years,
traveling in many countries with different cultures
such as Brazil, Singapore,
not forgetting France is the country
that has welcomed and raised me.
Then there is professional experience,
a lifetime of trading in over 80 countries in all five continents.
Here, I would like to emphasize that
I sell more than I buy,
so my selling experience is more refined than buying.
Another important aspect is
that my whole career is full of selling huge projects in electricity, metro,
projects of hundreds of millions of dollars,
even billions of dollars.
I have lived every day
with the “lobsters” of negotiation in the world,
the “superstars” of Germany,
the US… I am grateful that
they also gave me special dignitaries.
There was a time
when I ran the world’s electricity with them.
Only 6 people representing the 6 most powerful companies in the world do this together.
To be honest, at that time,
I kept having a subjective
and mistaken feeling that there was only sky
and clouds on me,
and only rain,
I didn’t know what to do,
but even blowing strong wind was no longer a secret to me.
forgive me for talking too much about myself,
but it’s true.
And right now,
when I see those old actors again,
like me, they’re all retired.
We can’t help but mention the old glories that
have built the world of expertise together for quite some time.
We always negotiate in a “confrontational” position,
but on the basis of each person’s respect for each other,
because everyone is dedicated to building a better electric world.
As the years passed,
I did not expect my mind to still grind over
and over again the long days of sitting and negotiating,
the happy and sad lessons of negotiation.
Mistakes are still smoldering,
sometimes heavier than before.
The happy times still have the same sound.
The mind is still trying to decipher the old unanswered problems.
Seen from that perspective,
this book will help me free myself from the thought of negotiation
after years of training,
which has come to perfection,
a kind of nirvana of negotiation skill.
I am very pleased that you read it kindly,
for allowing me to share.
* * *
Before entering the content,
I would also like to add that
I want to write this book as a story,
not in the form of a textbook structure.
Please read the book
as if you were experiencing a manual,
the advice of
a person who has gone through the difficulties
that you are having.
You will not find in this book specific concise solutions,
but on the contrary you will understand the attitude to have,
the culture to learn,
the outlook on life
that must be absorbed
in order for any negotiation to be successful.
if you understand what negotiation is,
why to negotiate,
if you know thoroughly that every second
and every minute you have the opportunity
to build a society in the context of person-to-person friction,
you will gently accept every negotiation
as an opportunity to get to know more,
to build more,
to cultivate more.
You will understand that
anyone can become your long-term friend
if you understand negotiation in its own right.
You will happily
and gently walk into the conference table
with the mind of a positive,
You won’t feel “fit”
when you have to negotiate in someone else’s mother tongue
in their own country.
You will not be afraid to negotiate alone
with a delegation of thirty forty people.
You will no longer worry
when you know you have to negotiate directly
with important people.
You won’t hesitate to bring up a delicate issue
that is likely to make your partner think,
if not frustrated.
You will boldly say what has to be said
and still understand the art of secrecy.
You will understand
that two partners sitting across from each other
need not necessarily have conflicts but also have similarities,
that they must check for all the good opportunities
that are mutually beneficial,
that in a rule of law,
you have no commitments to anyone
until you have signed a document.
And even if you do,
that signature is only a personal recognition of you
if you do not have an official power of attorney from the company.
So what are you afraid of,
everything is virtual if there is no valid,
If you understand that,
this book has achieved the desired result,
through the stories,
you absorb the main and the secondary.
* * *
I want to start the book with a folk tale
that is passed down in folklore,
which all Vietnamese know,
that is Bom’s story from a long time ago.
In ten six-eighth verses,
there are full of entanglements of negotiation.
The sharp Phu Ong
and the innocent Bom are two unique characters
of the Vietnamese national culture.
You will be surprised that
there are such skilled “negotiators” in our culture.
You will be proud and proud in the folklore
there are “heroes of business”.
And if you feel that you have the ability of Phu Ong
and also of Bom,
I will say right away:
you already have innate negotiation skills.
And if so,
then you read this book with a different interest!
* * *
Now you probably understand:
my purpose is just to share through the stories of my own life.
Nothing is more important than knowledge,
especially knowledge gained through experience.
Readers, please accept this book as my personal effort
to make a gift in Vietnamese,
from the Vietnamese heart,
from the Vietnamese heart
and to the Vietnamese people.
A gift summarizing 40 years of traveling,
far from home but still looking forward to returning every day.
Meet so many people and associations,
face so many situations,
solve so many questions,
find so many options,
and then bring them all back home,
put in this book,
give it to your friends.
Today is that intersection.