Approaches to negotiation

Negotiation typically manifests itself with a trained negotiator acting on behalf of a particular organization or position. It can be compared to mediation where a disinterested third party listens to each sides' arguments and attempts to help craft an agreement between the parties. It is also related to arbitration which, as with a legal proceeding, both sides make an argument as to the merits of their "case" and then the arbitrator decides the outcome for both parties.

There are many different ways to segment negotiation to gain a greater understanding of the essential parts. One view of negotiation involves three basic elements: process, behavior and substance. The process refers to how the parties negotiate: the context of the negotiations, the parties to the negotiations, the tactics used by the parties and the sequence and stages in which all of these play out. Behavior refers to the relationships among these parties, the communication between them and the styles they adopt. The substance refers to what the parties negotiate over: the agenda, the issues (positions and - more helpfully - interests), the options and the agreement(s) reached at the end.

Another view of negotiation comprises four elements: strategy, process and tools and tactics. Strategy comprises the top level goals - typically including relationship and the final outcome. Processes and tools include the steps that will be followed and the roles taken in both preparing for and negotiating with the other parties. Tactics include more detailed statements and actions and responses to others' statements and actions. Some add to this persuasion and influence, asserting that these have become integral to modern day negotiation success and so should not be omitted.

Skilled negotiators may use a variety of tactics ranging from negotiation hypnosis, to a straight forward presentation of demands or setting of preconditions to more deceptive approaches such as cherry picking. Intimidation and salami tactics may also play a part in swaying the outcome of negotiations.

Another negotiation tactic is bad guy/good guy. Bad guy/good guy tactic is when one negotiator acts as a bad guy by using anger and threats. The other negotiator acts as a good guy by being considerate and understanding. The good guy blames the bad guy for all the difficulties while trying to get concessions and agreement from the opponent.

The Advocate's Approach

In the advocacy approach, a skilled negotiator usually serves as advocate for one party to the negotiation and attempts to obtain the most favorable outcomes possible for that party. In this process the negotiator attempts to determine the minimum outcome(s) the other party is (or parties are) willing to accept, then adjusts their demands accordingly. A "successful" negotiation in the advocacy approach is when the negotiator is able to obtain all or most of the outcomes their party desires, but without driving the other party to permanently break off negotiations, unless the best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA) is acceptable.

Traditional negotiating is sometimes called win-lose because of the assumption of a fixed "pie", that one person's gain results in another person's loss. This is only true, however, if only a single issue needs to be resolved, such as a price in a simple sales negotiation.

During the 1960s, Gerard I. Nierenberg recognized the role of negotiation in resolving disputes in personal, business and international relations. He published The Art of Negotiating, where he states that the philosophies of the negotiators determine the direction a negotiation takes. His Everybody Wins philosophy assures that all parties benefit from the negotiation process which also produces more successful outcomes than the adversarial "winner takes all" approach.

Getting to YES was published by Roger Fisher and William Ury as part of the Harvard negotiation project. The book's approach, referred to as Principled Negotiation, is also sometimes called mutual gains bargaining. The mutual gains approach has been effectively applied in environmental situations as well as labor relations where the parties (e.g. management and a labor union) frame the negotiation as "problem solving". If multiple issues are discussed, differences in the parties' preferences make win-win negotiation possible. For example, in a labor negotiation, the union might prefer job security over wage gains. If the employers have opposite preferences, a trade is possible that is beneficial to both parties. Such a negotiation is therefore not an adversarial zero-sum game. Principled Negotiation method consists of four main steps: separating the people from the problem, focus on interests, not positions, generating a variety of possibilities before deciding what to do and insisting that the result be based on some objective standard.

There are a tremendous number of other scholars who have contributed to the field of negotiation, including Holly Schroth at UC Berkeley, Gerard E. Watzke at Tulane University, Sara Cobb at George Mason University, Len Riskin at the University of Missouri, Howard Raiffa at Harvard, Robert McKersie and Lawrence Susskind at MIT and Adil Najam and Jeswald Salacuse at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

The New Creative Approach

Perhaps the most famous negotiation parable involves an argument over an orange. The most obvious approach was to simply cut it in half, each person getting a fair share. But, when the negotiators began talking to each other, exchanging information about their interests, a better solution to the problem became obvious. The person wanting the orange for juice for breakfast took that part and the person wanting the rind for making marmalade took that part. Both sides ended up with more. Neither agreement is particularly creative. The parable of the orange becomes a story about creativity when both parties decide to cooperate in planting an orange tree or even an orchard. In a similar way, Boeing buys composite plastic wings for its new 787 Dreamliner designed and manufactured by Japanese suppliers and then sells the completed 787s back to Japanese airlines, all with a nice subsidy from the Japanese government. This is what is meant by creativity in negotiations. At business schools these days much is being learned about creative processes. Courses are offered and dissertations proffered with "innovation" as the key buzz word at academic conferences and in corporate boardrooms. And, the more heard about innovation and creative processes the greater is the appreciation that the Japanese approach to negotiations, by nature, uses many of the techniques commonly emphasized in any discussion of creative processes. Indeed, there appears to be a deeply fundamental explanation why the Japanese have been able to build such a successful society despite their lack of natural resources and relative isolation. While Japanese society does have its own obstacles to creativity - hierarchy and collectivism are two - they have developed a negotiation style that in many ways obviates such disadvantages. Indeed, the ten new rules for global negotiations advocated by Hernandez and Graham nicely coincide with an approach that comes naturally to the Japanese:

1. Accept only creative outcomes

2. Understand cultures, especially your own.

3. Don't just adjust to cultural differences, exploit them.

4. Gather intelligence and reconnoiter the terrain.

5. Design the information flow and process of meetings.

6. Invest in personal relationships.

7. Persuade with questions. Seek information and understanding.

8. Make no concessions until the end.

9. Use techniques of creativity

10. Continue creativity after negotiations.

Beyond the practices of the Japanese, credit must also be given to the luminaries in field that have long advocated creativity in negotiations. Howard Raiffa and his colleagues recommend: ...the teams should think and plan together informally and do some joint brainstorming, which can be thought of as "dialoguing" or "prenegotiating." The two sides make no tradeoffs, commitments, or arguments about how to divide the pie at this early stage. Roger Fisher and William Ury title their Chapter 4 in Getting to Yes, "Invent[ing] Options for Mutual Gain." David Lax and James Sebenius, in their important new book, 3D-Negotiations, go past getting to yes and talk about "creative agreements" and "great agreements." Lawrence Susskind and his associates recommend "parallel informal negotiations" toward building creative negotiation outcomes. These ideas must be pushed to the forefront in thinking about negotiations. The field generally is still stuck in the past, talking about "making deals" and "solving problems" as above. Even the use of terms like "win-win" expose the vestiges of the old competitive thinking. The point is that a negotiation is not something that can be won or lost and the competitive metaphor limits creativity. The problem-solving metaphor does as well. Thus, the first rule of negotiations is: Accept only creative outcomes! Lynda Lawrence at IdeaWorks, a Newport Beach consulting firm has developed a most useful list of ways to generate more ideas during negotiations.

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