Negotiation is a daily activity, in which all people engage, though many of them do not even realize it. The main purpose of communication is to reach an agreement on the issue at hand. The process, however, does not guarantee that the parties involved in the exchange of messages will automatically come to an agreement. It is where the negotiations step in; they can help the parties involved arrive at a consensus in some matters, which might be contestable. Negotiation can be approached through a number of principles, which guide the whole process. To this end, the process of negotiation, according to Fisher and Ury, follows the three major criteria, which ensure that it is done in a fair manner. The first criterion is that the negotiation should lead to a wise agreement in the case the agreement is possible. It should also be efficient in terms of how the ideas and points are argued with the other party. Lastly, negotiation should lead to either improved or worsened relationships between the parties. These principles are important in deciphering out the direction of the negotiation following the issues and interests to be gained from the entire process.
Once someone sets his/her eyes on the negotiating table, it is important to avoid any attempt at engaging in the positional bargaining as a method of negotiation because the other party then associates the ego with the already taken position. The positional bargaining is an unhealthy approach to negotiating since it causes less attention being given to the underlying concerns between the parties, which might be very important to the achievement of the negotiation goal. This kind of methodological approach can easily turn into the stonewalling, threats of walkouts, and reluctance to act, being one of the tactics that hinder the achievement of the mutual interest. On the other hand, one should be aware of a friendly position in the negotiating process because it is likely to make the person vulnerable especially if the other party is playing a hard position.
Chapter 1: Do Not Bargain over Positions
People often tend to bargain over their positions in many instances. Nevertheless, it is not a good approach to negotiations. The position bargaining in a negotiation is likely to lead to the unwise agreements between the parties. More attention paid to positions in a negotiation means that less will be given to solving the underlying concerns. It also impedes the possibility of reaching an amicable agreement; in most cases, the agreement reached may neglect the real interests of the parties involved. For example, a parent negotiating with the child on which school to attend may stand in the position that it is the parent who pays the school fees and, therefore, the child should attend the school of the parent’s choice. The child, on the other hand, may finally agree but he/she may not work hard in that school just to prove the point to the parent.
Negotiating on the positions is inefficient and deteriorates the relationships between the parties. However, the parties should take care of being nice since it will also endanger the fruitful outcomes of the negotiation. Therefore, negotiations should follow the four principles. The first is that it should separate the parties involved with the issue at hand; it should be focused on the parties’ interests as opposed to the positions; it should also take into account different possible options before settling on the one. Finally, it should follow an objective and systematic standard of communication.
Chapter 2: Methods to Separate the People from the Problem
Many negotiations in transactions tend to confuse the people and the issue that is being negotiated. It is important that the negotiations take into account the emotions, values, perceptions, considerations, and viewpoints of people, among other characteristics that describe their personality. These aspects should be distinguished from the problem at hand, which the parties wish to solve through negotiation. Negotiations, thus, should consider the sensitivity of the parties involved in order to avoid the disastrous points, at which one party feels attacked based on his or her personality. Moreover, the interests that, according to Fisher and Ury, may be substantive and relational should be considered. Whatever their interests are, the parties always desire their interests to be satisfied through negotiations. The relational aspect is also important; it is included in the process of negotiating. It is the wish of each negotiator to maintain a friendly relationship with the other party for the purposes of doing business or communicating in the future.
Negotiations, thus, should be based on the understanding that future relationships also are important. It is especially true for the business world where one is trying to sell an item to a customer, family members who are trying to solve an issue in the family, as well as in the national and international relationships. While negotiating with another party, it is equally important to address the perceptions, separating the relationships from the substantive and trying to put oneself into the other person’s shoe. One of the challenges to the attainment of the wise agreements is the tendency of confusing the people with the issue at hand. To this end, it is possible for one party to take a stand, which he or she is not willing to concede, because of not appreciating the personality of the other party.
This situation can be illustrated by a couple, in which a man speaks loudly and angrily. It is his character and habit to shout during the process of negotiating. The woman, in turn, should consider this personality and not confuse it with the issues, which may be of great importance to them both. All people face challenges in communication when they engage in a negotiation process. It is important that one party notices this problem and try to listen carefully and acknowledge the other party, speak clearly to make the message understandable, avoid speaking about the other party directly as opposed to accusing them and becoming personal. Rather, he or she should speak with an aim to achieve something while confronting the problem, not the person.
Focus on the Interests, Not the People
In a negotiation, it is easier to address the other party directly than the problem at hand. Negotiations should be aimed at reconciling the interests of the parties and never the positions that they hold about the problem. Focusing on the position is similar to telling the other parties that they are wrong in their suggestions without really letting them know why. Through the understanding of the underlying interests, it is possible for the parties to dissect the problem and come up with the solutions to that particular issue. The focus should also be placed on shared and compatible interests without disregarding the divergence areas. The parties should not assume that opposing the views mean that the interests also must be opposed. A closer examination of the shared interests will point out the areas where the opposing views can be compatible and agreed on. For instance, in the example of a parent and a schoolchild given above, it is important for the parties to identify the issues, on which they agree such as the convenient of the school, the number of school fees, and the school’s performance in the previous examinations. These and many other points will figure out the compatibility areas that will facilitate the agreement between the parent and the child on which school to attend.
Invent the Options for the Mutual Gains
In every situation, there are many options. These options should be explored in negotiation. While exploring the options, it is important that the parties lookout for the potential obstacles that can limit the achievement of the most appropriate options. One of the obstacles is a premature judgment by one or all parties. The premature judgment prevents creative thinking in negotiation and means that other viable and more appropriate options are out of the question. The second obstacle is the narrow mind in looking for a single answer to the problem. It means that the two parties are static in their approach to the issue at hand and are not willing to explore the other available options. It also means that the negotiation has only a win-lose dimension since each party is not willing to explore the other possibilities. The parties involved are convinced that their stand is the only available solution to the problem, about which they might be negotiating.
The third obstacle is the assumption that the parties might expect the benefits from the other party. Definitely, such expectations limit the openness and genuineness of the negotiation and even introduce deceptions because one party is not sincere with what he or she wants to achieve as a result of the negotiation. Lastly, the parties may consider that they do not have a stake in whatever is finally agreed on as the solution, provided they get what they want. This idea is formulated along the lines of being inconsiderate of the other party’s interests and selfish with their own interests.
In order to overcome the above obstacles, it is important that the involved parties know the difference between investing and deciding. While each party should be allowed to invest in his or her own, the decisions should be made together. It can be achieved by brainstorming the options, which are provided by the parties involved in the negotiations. The ideas brainstormed should also be arranged in accordance with the most viable and promising way in order to minimize the time required for negotiation. During brainstorming, the parties can also widen their perspective and find the hidden solutions or common points. The focus, however, should remain on the idea of the mutual benefit to the parties involved without limiting the scope of the shared interests. It is also important to consider the difference in values, beliefs, forecasts, and risks that each party has towards the impending outcomes of the negotiation. The time consideration is also important because the contagious point may be lying between the present and future.
Insist on Using the Creative Criteria
In every negotiation, there is a wave of hidden interests that cannot be overridden by the goodwill of only one party to negotiations. For this reason, the win-win approach without focusing on the established criteria can overshadow the need for setting the formal criteria. To this end, it is important that negotiations are not based on the will. They should not base on what one party is willing or unwilling to do but rather on the systems and criteria established for guiding the negotiations. The best position to start off is reconciling the differences against the possible costs. Negotiations must also be based on the standards and rules of engagement, which lead to reaching the objective agreement between the parties on the issue at hand. It is often good to leave out the will and lean on the objectivity while negotiating for a deal, in whichever situation.
The criteria can be applied depending on the available options and with the view of achieving efficient and beneficial agreements. It is not advised to limit the criteria that the two parties can apply when negotiating. The criteria should also be based on fair standards and procedures. It means that the involved parties must agree on the criteria to be used in negotiations with the view to ensuring that each negotiator is satisfied with the outcomes of the negotiations. Throughout the process, the parties must use reason as the guiding principle in the development of criteria. Both parties must be careful not to yield to the pressure of applying unfair or un-procedural criteria for negotiation. In fact, employing pressure is an indication that the two parties are aiming at competing with each other rather than negotiating on the benefits that each would get from the deal. It happens because such an approach interferes with the potentiality of reaching a satisfying agreement. In such a situation, one or both parties will have a feeling of being shortchanged or even dubbed into agreeing to criteria that do not serve their interests. It should never be a matter of who is going to prevail because it turns the negotiations into the arguments that won’t be settled for a long while. The criteria selection should not be bound by the irrational or unjustified characteristics such as the company’s policies or personal principles, which invariably stand in the way of an objective negotiation.
Yes, but what if they are more powerful?
It is not always that negotiations take place between two people who are equally competent or powerful to negotiate at the same level. Occasionally, one party may be better placed or more powerful in a negotiation that the other one. For this reason, both parties are required to have the best alternative to a negotiated agreement in order to allow for a fall back in the case the negotiations come to a dead-end. The best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA) is an option that the parties have a fall back as a means to protect themselves against the powerful negotiators. In order to benefit from this situation, each party must identify its BATNA, but it should be done within the context of the possible outcomes of negotiation. In the case the outcomes outweigh the BATNA, it is advisable to continue with the negotiations even when the other party is more powerful. Nevertheless, in the case the prospects for BATNA are acceptable, negotiators should not press on with the other powerful party because it only makes the matter worsened.
It is important that the parties know well about their BATNA so that they can always go back to them in case the negotiations are not leading to anywhere. The care should be taken in order to avoid falling back to a weak partner because it makes the negotiations more worthwhile. It is important to consider the issues of cultural differences, which can hinder the development of a BATNA because of the needs of the other party. The parties involved in communication might be of different cultural values and backgrounds. The understanding of negotiation may also vary in different cultures. For instance, the Japanese managers always shun negotiation because they consider them confrontational while the American managers prefer negotiations. All negotiators must have a list of actions that they might fall back if they do not agree with the other party; they must seek to improve the promising ideas by changing them into actions and options. They must also select the options that seem the best and can be used as the immediate fall back in the case the negotiation collapses.
What if they will not play?
Sometimes, one party might be intimidated or overpowered by the partner in the negotiation. In this case, the party may withdraw from the discussion and become protective without offering any deal in the negotiations. This situation should not mark the end of the negotiation. It is important to search for the alternatives to be offered to the other party at the discussion table. In the case the other party is not willing to tear the line, it is important that the negotiator concentrates on the possible benefits of the different options, interests, and criteria, focuses on the next step for the other party based on their interests and principles, and finally involves a third party if it is going to get the things to move. In some cases, the negotiation may need negotiation jujitsu, which means avoiding resorting to attacks when being attacked. It is similar to the actions of the gentleman in a game, in which the other partner has no vocabulary for gentleness.
In the process of making the parties tear the line, it is essential to watch out for any indications that they are now ready to talk or contribute their ideas to the negotiations. The negotiations should not be based on the defensiveness but rather encourage the criticisms and advice from the other party even if they are irrational. The aim is to build mutual trust and respect so that both parties can open up to the new discussion perspectives and bring their ideas to the table. It can be supplemented by targeting the personal attacks on the issues at hand by asking them questions and allowing time for the other party to respond and considering the words used in the negotiation in order to avoid hurting the other party. An important aspect of dealing with negotiators who are not willing to open up is to allow the space for them to communicate their views without diverting the attention from the main problem at hand. Negotiations should be based on the issues and not personalities and care should be taken against showing the signs of anger, discontentment, or being annoyed as they can give the other party room to become personal.
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What if They Use the Dirty Tricks?
The dishonesty and maliciousness are some of the tricks that individuals are likely to use in their interaction with others. Negotiations provide room for some people to be brutally dishonest and fatally malicious. As such, any person wishing to start the negotiation must guard against the use of the dirty tricks from the other party as a means of blackmailing or manipulating them into submitting their suggestions without further negotiation. The first thing is to have the rules of engagement that are fair and practical. Breaking these rules may be an indication that one of the parties is not willing to act honestly. A good example is the situation of the parents telling their child that they should meet for dinner in order to discuss an impending issue about school. It is the agreement, and the children should avail themselves at that time without failure. Not showing up could mean that they are trying to avoid or hide from the parents. Overcoming the dirty tricks in negotiation also goes back to focusing on the issues and not the people, interests not positions, as well as objective criteria, other options leading to mutual benefits, among many other means.
It is also important to have a list of the possible dirty tricks that the parties are likely to use in their negotiation. Among them, there is deliberate deception, in which one party lies deliberately with the intention of misleading the other party. The second is the use of the half-truths, as well as non-factual statements, meant to manipulate the other negotiator. Some negotiations may also use personal attacks, stressful situations, threats, and positional pressure tactics, among many others in order to get their way. They know that the other negotiator will not be willing to put up with their tricks and, therefore, give in easily to the dirty tricks that they choose to use in negotiations. In addition, some are likely to use the escalating demands, extreme demands, and calculated delays as the means of getting what they want from a negotiation. An example is a child who demands her parents to buy expensive toys on threatening not to go to school in the case of their refusal. The parent may fear to have a school dropout in the family and will buy those items in the hope that the child will continue studying.
Negotiation is an art that must be learned through practice. It is a practice that every day engage many people although some of them do not realize that they are negotiating. The best approach to perfecting negotiation is to engage in negotiations. Winning should be based on choosing a better approach without having to choose between the options. I have learned the following lessons from the book Getting to Yes: Negotiating an Agreement without Giving in:
· Negotiations should not degenerate into bargains over positions. Unfortunately, it is the case in many instances. Nevertheless, negotiations should be based on the interests and shared compatibilities of the parties.
· The four principles are to be applied in the process of looking for an effective negotiation approach. The first is the people; it is important to distinguish between the people and problems. The second is the interests, which should be the main concern at the focus. The third is the options that outline the other possibilities. Lastly, the criteria should be used in order to establish objective standards to be used in negotiating.
· Focusing on the interests instead of positions is important for allowing the negotiators to approach the negotiation table objectively rather than having subjective minds. Subjectivity means that the negotiation will be rigid since no one will be willing to let something go.
· There is more than one option for each negotiation. However, the parties involved must discover the existing options, which may not be clear to them; therefore, they require the input of both parties through the brainstorming and other tools. The enlisted options should be listed according to the most to the least viable choices made by the parties involved in negotiations.
· Selecting the criteria is important to achieving objectivity in the way the involved parties progress with negotiation. These criteria set the blueprint and framework that the two parties can use in order to reach the agreement.
· In the cases, the negotiators are hard to relent an inch of their demands, the best thing is to have an alternative to a negotiated agreement or BATNA. However, this should be based on facts and not assumptions.
· In some cases, the negotiator may refuse to play and keep silent. The strategy to use is the negotiation jujitsu, which allows one negotiator to bumper the other without really becoming a victim of the tricks.
· Always, there are ways to tame a negotiator who is playing dirty tricks such as deliberate deception, non-disclosure of important facts, calculated delays and threats, extreme and excessive demands, among many other tricks. The care should be taken in addressing these concerns in a wise way without shutting off the negotiator from the negotiations.
Fisher and Ury’s classic book is one of the most enlightening researches on negotiations I have ever read. Being written more than three decades ago, I consider it useful today just as it used to be many years back in the times it was written. Indeed, the authors deal with the everyday aspect of human life and interestingly bring out the new knowledge that most of us never thought existed. The current assignment should be improved by allowing the students to write some kind of a play, in which two or more people are engaged in negotiation and employ the principles learned from this book. I think that the play can become a good practicum of applying these principles in the academic environment. The next semester students should come with an illustration on how they engaged someone of their family in negotiation and how they used the principles explained in this book. They should also prepare to learn how communication and negotiation are interconnected.