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Lynn Hummel column: Yes, you too can wear iron pants

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opinion Detroit Lakes,Minnesota 56501
Detroit Lakes Online
Lynn Hummel column: Yes, you too can wear iron pants
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

A recent article on the 2008 Democratic presidential sweepstakes referred to Hillary Clinton as "The Iron Lady" who is conducting an "iron pants" campaign. We'll discuss the Clinton campaign style shortly, but first a few words about "iron pants."


Back during the cold war years when we were eyeball to eyeball with the Soviets (approximately 1945-89), their chief negotiator in the early years was Andrei Gromyko. He was Ambassador to the United States, later representing the Soviet Union to the United Nations and later yet First Deputy Foreign Minister.

Gromyko was known as a skilled negotiator and a knowledgeable politician and diplomat. As a negotiator, he was famous for his iron pants approach. What that meant was when negotiations were most tense, Gromyko could sit nose to nose with his adversaries for hours without conceding a point or yielding an inch, without the need for rest, without the need for food, without the need to go to the bathroom, almost without the need to blink. It was always the other guy who got worn down by fatigue, impatience or the need to relieve himself. The other guy blinked first, and Gromyko usually gained the upper hand. That's what iron pants was all about.

The article about Hillary Clinton called her style iron pants because she seems intent on masking her fatigue. She pushes herself around the clock (even wants to answer the phone at 3 a.m.) seven days a week, and is determined to demonstrate her endurance. She doesn't give up and as a result, she may be behind, but she's still in the race.

Iron pants negotiating is still going on. It isn't just for Andrei Gromyko and Hillary Clinton. We have diplomats negotiating for the USA today who arrange to start important meetings at 7 p.m. when everybody else would like to call it a day, then plan to negotiate without breaks for as long as it takes to make a deal -- 3 a.m. if necessary.

But it's not just for politicians and diplomats either. You and I can do it too, but not if we're in a big hurry to make a deal.

The key ingredient is patience -- more patience than the other guy. If the other guy is impatient to sell you a car and you want one and need one, but can be patient about getting all the information you need from the seller and others, you should get a better deal. Or if he won't give it to you, you have the ultimate power in negotiation -- you can walk away from the deal. Sooner or later you will do business on your terms. But usually, iron pants requires an iron will along with the patience.

If your teenage daughter tells you at 6 p.m. that she needs -- absolutely must have -- the family car at 7:30, the iron pants approach by mom or pop may not need to last more than about a half hour or so. That is the time to negotiate -- she's in a hurry and you're not. That is the time to get promises about more of those issues that had been getting postponed lately: homework, grades, chores, family obligations. Go for it, but don't get pushed off the track by tears, threats or hysteria. Remember your iron will.

You can call it lots of things: iron pants, iron will, the patient approach, the calculated approach, sticking with your guns or downright stubbornness, but it all comes down to knowing where you want to end up and taking your time getting there when the other guy can't match your patience. It can work in negotiating peace treaties, bills in congress, running for president, buying a car, buying a house, arranging family vacations, proposing marriage, working out the terms of divorce or letting your daughter have the family car at 8 p.m. But don't overdo it -- when you get a good deal, take it.