Negotiation is a method by which people settle differences. It is a process by which compromise or agreement is reached while avoiding argument. 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.
Specific forms of negotiation are used in many situations: international affairs, the legal system, government, industrial disputes or domestic relationships as examples. However, general negotiation skills can be learned and applied in a wide range of activities. Negotiation skills can be of great benefit in resolving any differences that arise between you and others.
Negotiation can be a structured process using many different interpersonal skills.
This Article aims to:
- Describe the common stages in the process of negotiation.
- Describe the different types of negotiation.
- Outline key points for successful negotiation.
- Explain the difference between interests and positions.
- Recognise why effective communication is essential to negotiation.
It is inevitable that, from time-to-time, conflict and disagreement will arise as the differing needs, wants, aims and beliefs of people are brought together. Without negotiation, such conflicts may lead to argument and resentment resulting in one or all of the parties feeling dissatisfied. The point of negotiation is to try to reach agreements without causing future barriers to communications.
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:
- Clarification of goals
- Negotiation towards a WIN-WIN situation
- Implementation of a course of action
Before any negotiation takes place, a decision needs to be taken as to when and where a meeting will take place to discuss the problem and who will attend. Setting a limited timescale can also be helpful to prevent the disagreement continuing
This stage involves ensuring all the pertinent facts of the situation are known in order to clarify your own position. In the work example above, this would include knowing the ‘rules’ of your organisation, to whom help is given, when help is not felt appropriate and the grounds for such refusals. Your organisation may well have policies to which you can refer in preparation for the negotiation.
Undertaking preparation before discussing the disagreement will help to avoid further conflict and unnecessary wasting time during the meeting.
During this stage, individuals or members of each side put forward the case as they see it, that is their understanding of the situation. Key skills during this stage are questioning, listening and clarifying. Sometimes it is helpful to take notes during the discussion stage to record all points put forward in case there is need for further clarification. It is extremely important to listen, as when disagreement takes place it is easy to make the mistake of saying too much and listening too little. Each side should have an equal opportunity to present their case.
3. Clarifying Goals
From the discussion, the goals, interests and viewpoints of both sides of the disagreement need to be clarified. It is helpful to list these in order of priority. Through this clarification it is often possible to identify or establish common ground.