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Alexander the Great’s most difficult Challenge from the PAST is a Great Phoenician Legacy TODAY!

My Negotiation Experience in Macedonia” by Dr. Habib Chamoun-Nicolas

Alexander the Great: Macedonia and the Phoenicians

It is known that Alexander the Great of Macedonia experienced great challenges when attempting to conquer Tyre, the great trade city of Phoenicia. The Phoenicians were known to be a pacifist culture and people, however, if they were attacked, they would defend their city and people at all costs.  Their dignity was not negotiable, no matter the circumstances. I was very fortunate to visit and very excited to find cues, traces, and evidence of the past history of these two regions of Phoenicia and Macedonia on my visit to Skopje, Macedonia for the first time!

Looking for a link between Macedonia and the Phoenicians

On my journey, I began to look for information and historical pieces of the puzzle which would lead to a bigger understanding of the relationship of the two, Phoenicians and Macedonians, and what a better place than the Skopje Archeological Museum.

During my trip I was given three options and opportunities to visit the museum:

1) upon arrival to Skopje (I would have at least 1 hour before the museum closed),

2) the day of my return from Struga to Skopje (at least 1 hour before the museum closed),

3) the day of departure to Zurich (at least 2 hours in the morning before leaving to the airport).

When given these choices I was worried that I would not have enough time to really enjoy the experience and might skip an important part of history if I was rushing through the museum. I had decided to go upon arrival, although when I arrived the museum was closed, and I did see some people inside. I went up to the front door and asked if I could have a quick glance at the museum, I was grateful for them to allow me to view it from the front desk, the view allowed you to see everything from a distance. That is when I was amazed at by what stood out from the whole exhibit, a Sarcophagus in the distance, whose could it be? A Phoenician?

I turned to the guards and asked, do you know if the Sarcophagus is Phoenician? They said, “Yes, it is a sarcophagus built by a Phoenician King to honor Alexander the Great”. You could image my dreams had come true; I found a Phoenician (a Sarcophagus at least).

Alexander the Great: Sarcophagus from Sidon, Phoenicia (replica)

Interestingly enough, I ended up going all three of the times that I could visit the museum. On my second visit, when I returned from Ohrid and Struga late in the evening, I had enough time to visit and try to take some pictures.

As soon as I was about to take a picture of my discovery, the officer of the archeological museum in a very direct and strong voice, ran up to me and requested that I erase the picture from my camera, and she didn’t leave me alone until she ensured I had erased the pictures.

Moment of despair 

I was so disappointed that I would not have a souvenir of this great moment of my life. While I was shocked not to be allowed to take pictures, I tried to see if there was a possibility to negotiate. I talked to the entrance personnel and the security guards and mentioned that I have come from very far to find a Phoenician and that I wanted to take a picture of a piece of history of Macedonia that I intended to promote worldwide as I teach.    

Macedonians are great people

This interaction was friendly, and they thanked me for my efforts of promoting Macedonian culture, but they mentioned that they did not have the authority to allow me to do that. In order to find a solution, you find how to continue the negotiation which in this case would be, requesting if I could talk to the people that have the authority to approve taking the picture. So, I requested this, and they mentioned that they would be there the next day.    

Getting information to negotiate

I knew this was going to be a challenge, even after I mentioned that I was leaving the country the next day, seeing that the only choice was to wait I decided to try for the impossible. My flight back was in the afternoon and I only had a couple of hours to talk to the authority who would be able to grant the approval. This was the manager of the museum who would only be there the next day since they had already left for the day.

Let’s get ready to… Negotiate

With time against me, I made sure to arrive thirty minutes before the museum opened (the employees let me know that the administration will be there prior to opening hours). As soon as I arrived, I was greeted with friendly welcomes and was told that the manager would be there in about fifteen minutes. Rather than let me wait outside, they insisted that I wait in the museum lobby on a very comfortable leather sofa, I was very grateful for this hospitality, which they did not need to extend (since they had not even opened).

Negotiation; the Manager

The moment of truth had arrived and so did the manager, I was able to explain my case; that the purpose of taking a picture was only scholarly and it would promote Macedonia’s culture and heritage. He also thanked me for my good intentions for promoting Macedonian culture and heritage, but that the person in charge of this decision would have to be the director. As long as I could wait a half hour longer, I would be able to discuss my case with her, she would arrive at that time.

Negotiating up the ladder; the Director 

My time was running out, I needed to get to the airport, but I also wanted to take the picture so badly that I waited. Once the director arrived and after mentioning my case, she agreed that my intentions were pure and authentic, but she also apologized because I waited in vain. Even though she agreed with me she could not let me take the picture because of the protocols of the museum that researchers and professors needed to make an official written request from their institution, and it had to have an official seal. After all that they would carefully consider the request and the director would produce a document with the agreements and then you would be able to take the picture.  

To which I replied, that is great! I have found a solution; you are the Director, and I could write this letter for your approval since we are already here, what do you think? Jokingly but also with the hopes of proceeding with the approval. The director replied that she is the operations director but that she could ask the main director if she is in her office.  

Be prepared for Deal Breakers 

After the operation director called the main director over the phone; one of the security guards who was there let us know that the director was aware of the situation and that I needed an official letter with a Seal. The Seal in this case was the Deal Breaker.

Use reference and standard criteria/credibility- generate options and mention benefits and relevance of the negotiation outcome to Macedonians 

Since this request was not an academic request for a specific course or university, rather it was for scholarly purposes and to be able to promote the image and culture of Macedonians in relation to Phoenicians. I let the guard know that in the USA we use Seals on letters for more academically reserved purposes to indicate formal documents, like diplomas or partnerships, that have to with academic or for legal purposes. I also asked if the Seal was only needed for the purposes of legitimacy and credibility; to make sure I was who I said I was and not some crazy tourist.

I made the request if they could take into consideration, if that was the only reason, that they could do a google search on me and find out who I was; an MBA professor teaching negotiations and using the best practices of the past such as those that the Phoenicians used. I did mention that there are a lot of pictures and information about my work on the internet and on credible sites. That, in fact, they could easily search and have access to my research and work.

This prompted me to mention the relevance of Alexander the Great’s Sarcophagus; even though the two cultures fought in this conflict, the Phoenician King from Sidon giving Alexander the Great the Sarcophagus was what I call “Tradeables”. That this interaction portrayed the negotiation style of the Phoenicians and that is what I teach at business schools, the Phoenician Way of negotiation.  

So, by taking this picture (even though it is the replica of the original one in the Archeological Museum of Istanbul, Turkey) when I mention Phoenician culture, I would also like to be able to mention and present this image to show the Phoenician King’s good gestures towards Macedonia; and to also mention Macedonia’s great spirit and rich heritage.  

Make others aware of your Negotiating deadline (when appropriate).  This also minimizes the difficulty of getting the deal done.

After all of these interactions I had come to realize that my only problem was that I needed to take a plane back home and even if they would be willing to help in this matter, I would likely run out of time. I mentioned how important a small act like taking this picture could have an impact by helping the world see Macedonia’s greatest memories and history and glory in just one glance. I also mentioned I was worried that I would run out of time and if possible, I could quickly write the letter, sign it and take the picture.  

Getting up the ladder of Negotiating (objective)

The operations director agreed after a long discussion to speak on the phone with the general manager to accept a letter without an official seal because my work on the internet could provide that same credibility and legitimacy that an official seal would provide for them.  

Creating Empathy is important in the negotiation process 

During the process of the negotiation, the operations director (on several occasions) apologized because I had to wait such a long time in order to get approved for taking this quick picture.

Which I let her know that it was completely fine and mentioned again that I was very grateful for the opportunity and that I enjoyed the negotiation experience!

The Deal

The operations director allowed me to use her computer to type my letter requesting permission for the picture; with the intent to show and present to my students worldwide and as a way to promote Macedonia history and attract Tourism to Macedonia. I also requested if I could use this picture on my scholarly publications, which I am doing now.

Empathy can lead to finding ways to engage in negotiation

While we waited for the letter being approved, the operations director asked if I would be interested in helping investigate something from Phoenician history. In Macedonia there is a tale that is told about “Lydia, the lady of purple” in which she wanted to find out if this meant “Lydia the lady of Phoenicia” because purple in Greek was related to the Phoenicians. Lydia helped spread Christianity in ancient Macedonia and later became a Saint.  

The wording is confusing, I mentioned, because the word “Phoenician” in Greek, means purple so maybe it is just a translation of the color purple and nothing to do with Phoenicia.  

However, the story is interesting because there is another Greek Phoenician in the Christian scriptures, the one that negotiated with Jesus and there are many stories that could be associated with the conversion of pagans to Christianity. I promised that I would research this in my free time. 

Don’t lose focus of Negotiating / keep the momentum going

The last surprise was that the letter needed to be translated into Macedonian. Thankfully, the operations director and her colleagues translated this letter for me. After signing several copies and keeping one for my records I was just waiting on the final approval and signature from the main director of the museum.

Negotiating under pressure – generate options

My time was running out and I needed to leave in the following fifteen minutes.

I mentioned this to the operations director while we were waiting for the approval letter.  She went to ask permission while the letter only needed the signature from the director if I could take the picture and before I leave, I could receive my copy with their signature.

It was approved that I could take the picture in the last ten minutes of my stay in the museum and I had to be accompanied by a security guard. Finally, I was able to take the picture!

When everyone Wins on negotiations there is a good feeling of creating new relationships even in a momentary event

Right after I was able to take the picture, I received both the letter with the main director’s signature and a request from the operations director and her team, plus the security guards (the entire museum staff) to take a picture with me. So, I told them, they need a signed letter with a Seal. Everyone started to laugh, and we proceeded to take the picture.

At the end it felt like I was leaving my great friends behind in Macedonia, all the security guards, the manager, operations and main directors and reception museum personnel gave me a nice and friendly farewell.  

At that moment, I felt I was an ambassador of history. It felt great doing something good and as simple as promoting another culture’s great moment in history without having to be a real ambassador with all the protocols and restrictions. The Phoenician Sarcophagus in Macedonia is a great legacy of Phoenician History as well as Macedonian history, having this cross-cultural perspective within negotiations is key to great negotiations and strengthened business relationships.

Habib Chamoun

About the Author — Habib Chamoun

AvatarDr. Chamoun-Nicolas graduated with a Post Doctoral Degree working with Elf-Aquitaine (TOTAL) Production in France, from University of Texas at Austin with a PhD. And masters in Science from the Petroleum and Chemical Departments and with a Bachelor in Science of Chemical Engineering and Business Administration from the Monterrey Institute of Technology and has participated in several special executive programs, such as the Program on Negotiation at Harvard University and the Brazilian Seminar at the International School of Business at the University of South Carolina. Dr. Chamoun has participated early on his professional career on a program equivalent to an “Executive MBA hands on experience” called “Marketing Associates” with Fluor Daniel in Irvine California. Dr. Chamoun has also been an invited guest speaker and instructor at several universities: Thunderbird School of International Business in the GLOBAL MBA program, MBOC at the University of Texas, PANAM, University of Texas Dallas Cohort MBA program, and the University of Houston on Negotiation and Business development related topics. Dr Chamoun has participated as a professor at the Virtual University of the Monterrey Institute of Technology in Mexico. The Autonomous University of Honduras, Business International School of San Pedro Sula and Catholic University of Guayaquil Ecuador is among the Central and Latin America Universities where he has taught negotiation.

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