Negotiation requires communication, but not necessarily verbal exchanges. Adjustments can be achieved incrementally by other means. This article will examine how some parties have managed to strike a deal in situations characterized by total distrust and even hostility, asymmetric power relations, major cultural differences, extreme logistical difficulties in reaching the place in which the trade is to be made, and several additional process risks by employing a type of bargaining known as "dumb barter."
This process presents a distinct paradigm with a specific and unique rationale. Sometimes called "silent trade," it has been observed in many places (especially West Africa) for more than two millennia. It may well be the oldest form of trade negotiation and is still practiced in some parts of the world. An examination of this unlikely but real and effective process can also provide negotiation theorists with some useful insights into the fundamental nature of negotiation.