Negotiating the Impossible

Deepak Malhotra

Negotiating the Impossible



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Over the years, Deepak Malhotra has gathered together a large number of stories, taken from conversations with tens of thousands of entrepreneurs, managers, politicians, and athletes. He has studied hundreds of negotiations, complicated international situations, stalled discussions, and conflicts that have dragged on, seemingly without end. He believes that any situation can be resolved, and in his book he explains how to find a solution to every problem, based on the conviction that negotiating means, first and foremost, interacting with others. Negotiating the Impossible came from the desire to provide a guide to negotiating more effectively, especially in situations where agreement would seem impossible.

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Analysis and key concepts


Negotiations involve human interaction between two or more people, who are aware of having different interests and points of view, and are trying to reach an agreement


The power of framing: changing the way you frame a proposal can also change the way in which it is perceived


Sometimes it is enough to present a solution as the obvious choice for the majority to accept it


The first side to establish a frame of reference will have an advantage over the other party


Pay attention to the process: a good negotiator doesn’t simply think about what they want to get out of the agreement, but also how they will get there, creating a map with all the necessary components


Do not underestimate the importance of staying at the negotiation table, even when relations seem completely compromised


Changing the rules during the process can be a great way to successfully close a negotiation that is at risk of finishing badly


The power of empathy in negotiations: understanding the other party’s point of view is crucial (but doesn’t mean you have to approve of it or justify it)


Empathy also means accepting others’ deep-seated beliefs and using them to your advantage




Take-home message

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Many useful tips to:

  • Learn how to overcome seemingly hopeless conflicts and stalemates taken from real-life events.
  • Nurture the belief that even the most difficult issues can be resolved.
  • Manage situations of conflict without the use of physical force or money.
  • Break-through in complex negotiations in which no one is willing to back down.

Deepak Malhotra is an economist and Professor at Harvard Business School. He is an expert in negotiations, conflict resolution, and developing empathy. He is a consultant for companies around the world, as well as governments seeking to negotiate armed conflict resolutions. He has won numerous awards in teaching and research; in 2014, he received recognition as one of the best business school professors in the world under 40 years of age. In 2020, he was named MBA Professor of the year by Poets & Quants. His research has been published by the key magazines in the field of management, psychology, conflict resolution, and foreign policy.

Publishing house:

Berrett-Koehler Publishers