Negotiation is an essential part of life. The best of friends, siblings, family members, and those passionately in love negotiate. Even the way some of us pray might be called a negotiation with God.
To create true fellowship between mature adults, there are times where negotiation will be necessary.
Negotiation is a good thing and does not need to be about adversary, greed, manipulation, and control. In the best of circumstances, negotiation is actually about getting our wants and needs met.
Essentially, negotiation is a dialogue between two or more people or parties intended to reach a beneficial outcome over one or more issues where a conflict exists with respect to at least one of these issues.
All negotiation is an interaction and process between entities who aspire to agree on matters of mutual interest while optimizing their individual utilities. This beneficial outcome can be for all of the parties involved, or just for one or some of them. Any negotiators will need to understand the negotiation process and other negotiators to increase their chances to close deals, avoid conflicts, establishing relationships with other parties, and maximize mutual gains.
“We’re fascinated by the words — but where we meet is in the silence behind them.”
― Ram Dass
The most productive negotiations are aimed to resolve points of difference, to gain an advantage for an individual or collective, or to craft outcomes to satisfy various interests.
Distributive negotiations, or compromise, are conducted by putting forward a position and making concessions to achieve an agreement. The degree to which the negotiating parties trust each other to implement the negotiated solution is a major factor in determining whether negotiations are successful.
One of my favorite tools in a win-win negotiation where everyone gets what they need is active listening. Active listening is an essential element in my Transmodern Zen studies. This type of listening is more than just hearing what the other side is saying. Active listening involves paying close attention to what is being said verbally and nonverbally. It involves periodically seeking further clarification from the person. By asking the person exactly what they mean, they may realize you are not simply walking through a routine, but rather take them and their needs seriously.
The most skilled negotiators tend to prefer, Integrative Negotiation, also called interest-based, merit-based, or principled negotiation. It is a set of techniques that attempts to improve the quality and likelihood of negotiated agreement by taking advantage of the fact that different parties often value various outcomes differently. While distributive negotiation assumes there is a fixed amount of value (a “fixed pie”) to be divided between the parties, integrative negotiation attempts to create value in the course of the negotiation (“expand the pie”) by either “compensating” loss of one item with gains from another (“trade-offs” or logrolling), or by constructing or reframing the issues of the conflict in such a way that both parties benefit (“win-win” negotiation).
However, even Integrative Negotiation is likely to have some distributive elements, especially when the different parties both value different items to the same degree or when details are left to be allocated at the end of the negotiation. While concession is mandatory for negotiations, research shows that people who concede more quickly, are less likely to explore all integrative and mutually beneficial solutions. Therefore, early conceding reduces the chance of an integrative negotiation.
Integrative negotiation often involves a higher degree of trust and the formation of a relationship. It can also involve creative problem-solving that aims to achieve mutual gains. It recognizes a good agreement as not one with maximum individual gain, but one that provides optimum gain for all parties. Gains in this scenario are not at the expense of the Other, but with it. Each seeks to accord the Other enough benefit that it will hold to the agreement that gives the first party an agreeable outcome, and vice versa.
Productive negotiation focuses on the underlying interests of the parties rather than their starting positions, approaches negotiation as a shared problem-solving rather than a personalized battle, and insists upon adherence to objective, principled criteria as the basis for agreement.
A successful negotiator, a person seriously interested in creating fellowship speaks for a purpose, understands that too much information can be as harmful as too little. Before presenting an important point, they know to determine exactly what they wish to communicate to the other party. Once they have done this they will next need to determine the exact purpose that this shared information will serve. In the end, doing this assures, that if possible, everybody benefits.
Author: Lewis Harrison’s is a former host of a Q & A radio show on an NPR-affiliated station. He participated in negotiations concerning the Middle East at the Council on Foreign relations. He can be reached by e-mail at LewisCoaches@gmail.com