People Skills:

Effective Negotiation

Conduct During Negotiations

Partially adapted from Getting to Yes, by Fisher, R, and Urey. W., the Harvard Negotiating Project, and Training Manual on Technology Transfer, by UNIDO

Negotiators have different views on how negotiations should be conducted: whether as an adversarial process, with each side defending its interests until a mutually acceptable position is forged, or as a process in which the mutuality of interests is the paramount focus. Each view is discussed below.

Adversarial approach

 

The adversarial process has become part of the judicial system in common law countries principally because it was felt to be the most effective way to arrive at the truth in cases of alleged penal violation. But it is an inappropriate process in the undertaking of a business agreement, where cooperation and accommodation are sought.

The adversarial approach leads to positional bargaining in which each side fiercely defends its position. Such a contest of will causes anger and resentment, which jeopardize the ongoing relationship. Bargaining over positions tends to force each party to extremes for the sake of winning small concessions. This drags the process out significantly, increasing the time and cost of arriving at an agreement and reduces the chances of one being reached at all.

Principled negotiation

Principled negotiation, or negotiation on the merits, is a widely accepted method of negotiation. This is the method advanced by the Harvard Negotiating Project, developed by Roger Fisher and William Urey and related in their best selling book Getting to Yes. In essence, the method calls for negotiators to be problem solvers with a goal of reaching a wise agreement efficiently and amicably.

It has four basic points:

  1. People: separate the people from the problem.

  2. Interests: focus on interests, not positions.

  3. Options: generate a variety of possibilities before deciding what to do.

  4. Criteria: insist that the result be based on some objective standard.

The first point recognizes that positions become identified with egos. Agreement is delayed because it is difficult to get people to back down. The negotiators need to work side-by-side and to resolve issues together, attacking the problem rather than each other.

Solving People Problems

 

The second point is meant to avoid focusing on stated positions when the object of a negotiation is to satisfy the underlying interests of each party. Looking at the interests of the parties that is, to their overall objectives rather than at a series of positions makes it easier to reach compromises on the particulars.

The third point is aimed at avoiding decisions made under pressure or in a presence of an adversarial negotiator. Such conditions tend to narrow vision. The same can be said for coming up with the one right decision. Instead, negotiators from both sides should take time together to think up a wide range of of solutions that advance shared interests and/or reconcile differing interests and then, later, jointly choose one. The parties, in effect, should invent options for mutual gain.

The forth point has to do with situations in which the interests are directly opposed. In such situations, the parties should try to reach results based on standards independent of the will of each party. Some fair standard such as market value, custom, law or expert opinion will serve the purpose. Negotiators should reason and be open to reason, yield to principle but not to pressure, and insist on using objective criteria.

These four principles are relevant to all the stages of negotiation: analysis, planning and the actual negotiation. During analysis you are diagnosing the situation, gathering the studying information about it, considering possible problems with personal interactions, reviewing options already on the table and identifying the interests of the parties. During planning the same four points are considered again while ideas are generated and actions decided. How will the personality be handled? Which are your most important interests? During negotiations the four points come to the forefront. Differences in perception, feelings of anger etc., should be acknowledged and dealt with. Each side should recognize the interests of the other so both can generate options to achieve agreement.

 

In summary, principled negotiation, as contrasted to positional bargaining, focuses on the interests of the parties, mutually satisfactory options and fair standards to reach agreement. It enables the parties to reach agreement efficiently without all of the anger and resentment that occurs when they try to dig each other out of entrenched positions, improving the chances for a wise agreement, amicably achieved, that can lead to a rewarding long-term relationship.

Cultural differences

During negotiations it is important to be aware of cultural differences between the groups of negotiators and to recognize that cultural differences can affect the way one side hears and absorbs what is being said by the other. Cultural differences can either highlight and clarify or distort and confuse what is said. Special effort is needed to counter their impact. Care must be taken to be sure that arguments are phrased in a manner that will be fully comprehended. Speaking slowly and stopping to get feedback from the other party on their understanding of your statement will be very helpful.

 

 

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