Negotiation and Apologies: The Role of an Apology, the Role of the Law and the Role of the Lawyer

Pieter Lavens
Ghent University-Universiteit Gent; Bond University – School of Law

November 21, 2013


Every profession has its own bible, which is the starting point for every person. For negotiators, this bible is Fisher’s and Ury’s ‘Getting to yes.’ As this book is a guideline for how to negotiate, it includes all the important aspects negotiators should be aware of. One of those aspects is that a large number of negotiators are often only interested in money. As a result, they do not recognize that they are negotiating with human beings having basic human needs other than money. By not paying attention to the human side of the opposite party, negotiators lose a very powerful weapon, since the basic human needs are often the most powerful interests at stake in many negotiations.

The focus of this paper is one of these basic human needs; the need for apologies. The value of an apology can be hundreds of thousands of dollars. Its role in negotiations has received an increased interest from scholars and practitioners in the last twenty years, which demonstrates how important an apology can be in negotiation. Although apologies have a large number of aspects to consider in public and private settings, this paper will only examine the potential effects of apologies in private negotiations and their outcomes in a legal setting. As this paper will argue that apologising can be beneficial, it will then focus on how the law influences the use of apologies. Finally, this paper will examine what lawyers should be aware of when advising their clients in function of giving or receiving an apology.

Negotiation and Apologies- The Role of an Apology, the Role of the Law and the Role of the Lawyer

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