Negotiation is a method by which people settle differences. It is a process by which compromise or agreement is reached while avoiding argument and dispute.
In any disagreement, individuals understandably aim to achieve the best possible outcome for their position (or perhaps an organisation they represent). However, the principles of fairness, seeking mutual benefit and maintaining a relationship are the keys to a successful outcome.
In simplest terms, negotiation is a discussion between two or more disputants who are trying to work out a solution to their problem. This interpersonal or inter-group process can occur at a personal level, as well as at a corporate or international (diplomatic) level. Negotiations typically take place because the parties wish to create something new that neither could do on his or her own, or to resolve a problem or dispute between them. The parties acknowledge that there is some conflict of interest between them and think they can use some form of influence to get a better deal, rather than simply taking what the other side will voluntarily give them. They prefer to search for agreement rather than fight openly, give in, or break off contact.
When parties negotiate, they usually expect give and take. While they have interlocking goals that they cannot accomplish independently, they usually do not want or need exactly the same thing. This interdependence can be either win-lose or win-win in nature, and the type of negotiation that is appropriate will vary accordingly. The disputants will either attempt to force the other side to comply with their demands, to modify the opposing position and move toward compromise, or to invent a solution that meets the objectives of all sides. The nature of their interdependence will have a major impact on the nature of their relationship, the way negotiations are conducted, and the outcomes of these negotiations.
Mutual adjustment is one of the key causes of the changes that occur during a negotiation. Both parties know that they can influence the other’s outcomes and that the other side can influence theirs. The effective negotiator attempts to understand how people will adjust and readjust their positions during negotiations, based on what the other party does and is expected to do. The parties have to exchange information and make an effort to influence each other. As negotiations evolve, each side proposes changes to the other party’s position and makes changes to its own. This process of give-and-take and making concessions is necessary if a settlement is to be reached. If one party makes several proposals that are rejected, and the other party makes no alternate proposal, the first party may break off negotiations. Parties typically will not want to concede too much if they do not sense that those with whom they are negotiating are willing to compromise.
The parties must work toward a solution that takes into account each person’s requirements and hopefully optimizes the outcomes for both. As they try to find their way toward agreement, the parties focus on interests, issues, and positions, and use cooperative and/or competitive
Stages of Negotiation
In order to achieve a desirable outcome, it may be useful to follow a structured approach to negotiation. For example, in a work situation a meeting may need to be arranged in which all parties involved can come together.
The process of negotiation includes the following stages:
- – Preparation
- – Discussion
- – Clarification of goals
- – Negotiate towards a Win-Win outcome
- – Agreement
- – Implementation of a course of action
In any negotiation, the following three elements are important and likely to affect the ultimate outcome of the negotiation:
- – Attitudes
- – Knowledge
- – Interpersonal Skills
- – Attitudes
All negotiation is strongly influenced by underlying attitudes to the process itself, for example attitudes to the issues and personalities involved in the particular case or attitudes linked to personal needs for recognition.
Always be aware that:
Negotiation is not an arena for the realisation of individual achievements.
There can be resentment of the need to negotiate by those in authority.
Certain features of negotiation may influence a person’s behaviour, for example some people may become defensive.