Conflicts and disagreements arise when the differing needs, wants, aims and objectives of people are brought together. When two minds think differently on any subject, conflicts take place as everyone think of their own profits first. Negotiation is an effective way of solving any type of conflict. Negotiation occurs in business, non-profit organizations, government branches, among nations and in personal situations such as marriage, divorce and in everyday life. People settle their differences by compromising and reaching an agreement by negotiating.
MEANING OF NEGOTIATION
Negotiation is a strategic discussion that resolves an issue in a way that both parties find acceptable. In a negotiation, each party tries to persuade the other to agree with his or her point of view. Negotiation is a process of discussion between two or more disputants, who seek to find out a common solution for a common problem, one that meets their needs and of interests. During negotiations, parties involved must feel comfortable with what has been agreed so that they can move forward and develop an ongoing relationship. Either parties can take the process of negotiation themselves or they can take help of any professional negotiator.
ELEMENTS OF NEGOTIATION
Negotiation can be successful only when the parties involved are clear about the matter and the manner in which it is to be performed. Negotiation involves three basic elements, which is process, behavior and substance. The process of negotiation is the manner in which parties negotiate which is the context of negotiation, the tactics used by parties, behavior refers to the communication and negotiation styles that parties use, and finally substance refers to the matter for negotiation.
Further negotiation can be successful if the following points are considered before performing it. Firstly, the parties involved must be clear about the subject of negotiation. Secondly, there must be good and effective communication between parties. Good communication involves active listening, understanding and acknowledging each other’s points. Lastly, parties should aim at getting a win-win result from negotiation. The aim of every negotiation must be to provide a result with which both the parties are satisfied.
STAGES IN NEGOTIATION
A structured approach towards negotiation is very important for getting the desired outcome. The process of an effective negotiation includes following stages:
- Preparation: The old maxim ‘proper preparation prevents poor performance’ is as crucial in negotiating as it is in other areas like presentations, businesses etc. Parties must be clear with their objectives and must plan their approach towards its attainment. Further, it is also important to anticipate the other party’s approach so that a framework can be prepared for negotiation. Preparation also involves making decisions related to the most important issues and planning one’s tactics.
- Discussion: After preparation, the time comes when parties meet each other. During this stage, members from each side put forward their understanding of the situation. Key elements of this stage are questioning, listening and clarifying. Parties involved should try to understand each other’s viewpoint and should take notes during the discussion to record all points put forward related to the case. Discussing each other’s hopes and expectations sets the tone for the negotiation. Discussion also involves asking questions and understanding the key points important for reaching an agreement.
- Reassessment of tactics: After initial discussion is over next important thing is re-assessment of tactics by the parties. Here parties consider viewpoints of each other, set their priorities and summarize before starting to make proposals and bargain.
- Make Proposals: Now, the parties make the proposals before each other. A proposal is an offer with a condition or conditions. The parties must show flexibility in their offers and must know when to adjourn in a negotiation.
- Bargaining: Here parties must bridge the gaps between their proposals. This stage focuses on what is termed a win-win outcome where both sides feel that their point of view have been taken into consideration and both sides feel they have gained something positive through the process of negotiation.
- Agreement: After viewpoints and interests of both sides are considered, agreement is achieved. Agreement must be clear so that both parties know what has been decided.
- Implementing a Course of Action: From the agreement, a course of action is developed which is to be followed by the parties. Course of action is the manner in which parties perform their duties.
BASIC PRINCIPLES THAT MAKE A SMART NEGOTIATOR
As a negotiator doesn’t look at those you negotiate with as opponents, approach them as counterparts to cultivate a win-win mindset and create success for both the sides. Some of the important points, for becoming a good negotiator, are as follows:
Get the other side to commit first
Negotiators should get the other side to commit to a position first. Reasons for this are that other party’s offer might be better than you expected and it gives information about their plans and objectives. As a rule, you should always find out what the other side wants to do first then proceed with your views.
Act Dumb, Not smart
While negotiating it is better, acting as if you know less than everybody else does. Try asking questions and use phrases such as ‘Tell me more about…’ and ‘What is your biggest concern with….’ Instead of questions that can be answered with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’. With a few rare exceptions, most people want to compete with people they see as brighter and help people they see as less bright. Good negotiators know that acting dumb diffuses competitive spirit and opens the door to win-win solutions.
Concentrate on the issues
Negotiators should always concentrate on the issues and never get distracted by the actions of the other party. It is important for a negotiator to be relaxed and tension free for better concentration. Good concentration helps negotiators in understanding the points of their counterparts, which further leads to a better result.
Do your Homework
A negotiator should always plan his strategies before meeting for negotiation. Prior preparation is very important because it helps in assessment of one’s goals and helps in anticipating the other party’s approach.
For an effective and good result, a negotiator must be polite, honest and considerate. While exchanging information a negotiator must always attempt to tell the truth as telling lie will destroy his credibility.
A negotiation can give desired results only if the negotiator is confident and presents his feelings without anxiety or anger. Being assertive means taking care of one’s own interests while maintaining respect for the interests of others.
CULTURAL DIFFERENCES AND NEGOTIATION
Negotiation across cultures tends to lead to worse results as compared with that conducted within the same culture. Primary reason behind this is that different cultures are characterized by different behaviors, communication styles and norms. Thus bringing different cultures to the bargaining table may result in potential misunderstandings, which reduces chances of a good result. There are two main reasons for cultural misunderstandings. Firstly, due to cultural differences people tend to rely on stereotypes, which lead to distorted outcomes. Secondly, people tend to interpret other’s behaviors and values through the lens of their own culture. Culture profoundly influences how people think, communicate, and behave. It also affects the kinds of transactions they make and the way they negotiate them.
Solutions for cultural differences
Instead of relying on stereotypes, one should understand each other’s behavior first and then proceed with negotiation. It has always been advisable to understand the cultural factors in negotiations. While negotiation, one must start with an open-mind and understand counterpart first then take any steps.
Further, negotiations should aim at such results, which satisfy the needs of both the parties. Therefore, no negotiation can succeed if any of the negotiators enters and interpret everything through his lens. A good negotiator must learn about the other party’s culture. Understanding different cultures and customs ends up in giving a more satisfying result for any negotiation.
Negotiation involves discussions aimed at reaching an agreement. Intention of any negotiation is to reach an understanding, resolve points of differences and produce an agreement, which satisfies the interests of the parties involved in the negotiation process. Through proper negotiation, any kind of disputes can be solved whether it is personal or professional. Thus, negotiation provides solution to the problems of two or more disputants through proper discussions and agreements.