I mean really negotiate, not haggle, or cave in to reach an agreement as quickly as possible, but really negotiate? Do you know all the techniques and tricks, what to do and what not to do to get the best possible deal?
Neither does Gordon Brown. For many years, firms and organisations have sent their staff on courses to teach them to negotiate. They may or may not learn anything, but the biggest output from these training courses is to show that most people don't have a clue how to negotiate, and after such training many of them still haven't a clue.
There is the salesman or buyer who is so fixated on price that he or she gets a bad deal on everything else, the executive who is so intent on getting an offer acceptable to the board that they get a lousy deal anyway, but worst of all there is the person who just doesn't have a clue how to play the game.
At the end of the 1990's recession a friend told me of the terrible time he was having as co-lead manager on a property loan that had gone bad. Working with him as co-lead from Barclays was a manager who had been drafted in to manage his bank's position in several workouts, after several years winning promotions in the personnel department in the north of England.
It turned out that issuing staff memoranda was no preparation for negotiations with delinquent but avaricious property owners, and the former HR man couldn't open his mouth without blowing the bank syndicate's negotiating position. Every round of discussions would start with his announcement of the concessions the banks were prepared to make followed by an interruption from the borrower before he could say what the banks wanted in return.
Fast forward to today and we hear our Great Leader playing the world's worst poker hand. True enough, the government has previously mentioned that it would review the need for a fourth Trident submarine and that will have been heard and noted in Beijing, Moscow, Tehran and Pyongyang, and the reliability of the current nuclear fleet is probably well known in such circles. But today Gordon Brown surpassed himself by telling the world what he was prepared to trade away in negotiations without setting out what, if anything, he wanted to see in return.
"Hey guys, I have a nine of clubs. Oh. Perhaps I shouldn't have told you that."