Deal or No Deal?
Resolving Conflict Through Negotiation

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Negotiation is a specialized type of conflict resolution. We negotiate because we have to not because we want to. We negotiate because we cannot, otherwise, get what we want - not unless we enlist others. However, most people hate to negotiate. They dislike the confrontation that negotiation sometimes involves. They experience stress and fear. They worry that they aren't getting a good deal. Some people will do almost anything to avoid it.

"Let us never negotiate out of fear.
But let us never fear to negotiate."

President John F. Kennedy

Negotiation is a powerful method for resolving conflict which requires skill, and experience. And, good negotiators aren't born they are made. Anyone can improve their skills and ability through practice and dedication. Which is worth doing because we engage in one negotiation or another everyday and many times a day.So how do we improve? By focusing our energies on:

  • Learning and Understanding Key Elements of the Negotiation Process. The pages in this section will help you do so.

  • Improving Your Preparation, Analytic & Interpersonal Skills.

  • Developing & Internalizing "Operating Principles" for Negotiating More Effectively. Simple rules that make sense to you that you can apply to all your negotiations.

  • Practicing & Sharpening Your Capacity To Use Basic Negotiation Techniques.

Negotiation is not a spectator sport! Studies show that human beings tend to retain 20% of what they hear; 50% of what they see; and, 80% of what they do. That's why in our Negotiation Skills trainings we focus on case studies and role plays. The evaluations show that what is most meaningful for participants are the things they did and learned from not our lectures or slide shows. Remember the answer to the question, "[H]ow do I get to Symphony Hall?" The answer is the same for improving your negotiating abilities, "Practice! Practice! Practice!!!"

Effective Negotiators

  • Purposeful not reactive. They choose their objectives after careful analysis and reflection rather than being "run" by their emotions. They are well prepared and systematic.

  • Explicit about process as well as substance. Most people find the substance or "what" of the negotiation easy to talk about, but they ignore the process issues. How the negotiation should be conducted, what issues will be discussed and in what order? What methods might be used to reach a resolution. Often when discussions on substance bog down, switching the discussion to process can help move things forward.

  • Know that managing shared, differing and conflicting interests is a joint problem which forms the core of any negotiation. This is an example of a process issue. Often negotiators focus only on their own concerns and ignore the other side's. This can be fatal for if the negotiation is to conclude with an
    agreement, each side needs to walk away with at least some of its needs met.

Negotiation typically involves a tension between discovering shared interests - maximizing joint gains or maximizing our own gains at the expense of the other side's when interests seem to conflict. Many negotiators manage this tension poorly. Some overdo the opportunity for unilateral gain which often means sacrificing potentially more significant joint gains. Or some underemphasize the existence and importance of conflicting interests which can mean they do less well than they should have.

What is Negotiation?

Besides a much maligned term, that it? It comes from the Latin word "negotium." Consider what these definitions have in common:

  • Use of information and power to effect behavior.

  • The art of getting what you want.

  • A process for reaching agreement when there are conflict interests.

  • Negotiation is a discussion between two or more parties each with a goal of realizing agreement on issues separating them when no side has the power to get its own to get its own way.

  • Negotiation includes any instance in which two or more people are communicating each for the purpose of influencing the other's decision.

Negotiation is a process for mutually satisfying needs. We negotiate because we have to, not because we want to. For there to be a negotiation, each party recognizes that s/he can't get what they want on their own and that they need something from the others. For negotiation to work each side has to walk away with at least some of its needs met.

Yet negotiators too often ignore this fact. They spend little time preparing --determining their own needs, objectives, and aspirations and priorities. And, totally ignore the needs, objectives, aspirations, and priorities of the other side. They assume a conflict of interests between the parties rather than engaging in a rational pursuit. This is just one of many errors in negotiator judgment that, left unrecognized, can thwart a negotiation at the start.

Win/Win vs. Win/Lose

Distributive negotiation, or traditional negotiation, is the style which is familiar to most people. In this model the objective is to convince the other side that s/he wants what you have to offer more than want what s/he has to offer. Negotiation means hard, tough bargaining. It is a win/lose model whose underlying assumption is the fixed pie. That is every time you take a slice there is that much left for the other side. But that is only true, if there is only one issue to decide.

Most people would consider the price for the sale of some object like a piece of art as one example. However, is there truly only one issue? Is it possible that the buyer would pay more if terms could be arranged or a payment plan, so s/he wasn't laying out the full price immediately? Would the seller take less if the buyer offered cash? Is delivery an issue that is important to one side? Does timing have an impact? Are there intangibles that are important to a side?

Whenever there is more than one issue to negotiate there is the potential for integrative negotiation. Differences in the parties' preferences make mutual gains possible. Integrative negotiation or win/win focuses on the parties working together collaboratively to produce an agreement that provides gain for each side. That each side does better due to having engaged in the negotiation process than s/he would have done on their own. See All Things BATNA.

This win/win approach is also called Principled Negotiation or Mutual Gains Bargaining and was first outlined in the groundbreaking book, Getting to Yes, by Roger Fisher and William Ury in the 1970's. If you read no other book on negotiation read this one. You can click on its link for more information. It is ground breaking because it laid out the steps negotiators need to follow to apply the win/win approach.

These are

Focus on Interest not Positions. Interests are the submerged part of the positions people take in a negotiation. They are the why to the what.

Separate the People from the Problem. While emotions have an important role in negotiation, they should never be allowed to overwhelm the negotiation. Negotiations should always be centered on the negotiators' ideas and their merit not on the personalities of the negotiators.

Create Options for Mutual Gain. Adopt a problem solving approach, avoid lock-in. Be willing to explore a range of possibilities. Look for possible tradeoffs that can benefit both sides.

Insist on Objective Criteria. When conflicts of interests do arise look to acceptable external standards or procedures that are independent of either side, legitimate, and apply equally, for guidance on how to resolve rather than making it a test of wills.

Know Your BATNA - your no agreement alternative. What is your back up plan?

Negotiating Styles

Research has led to the identification of five styles responses to negotiation. It is possible to have an affinity to more than one style and for a negotiator to adopt different styles at different times. However, it is also useful to know what your predispositions are. To find out yours download the free copy of the Thomas Kilman Conflict Mode Instrument and fill it out. After you have scored it click hereto learn more about your negotiating style.

For more information about negotiation, click on any of the links below.

To learn more about other conflict resolution topics, click on any of the links below.

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