Negotiation as an inevitable component of social life
People constantly negotiate, not just over big issues such as job offers or international peace talks, but also over daily issues such as neighbors settling the dispute over loud music. Negotiation can occur at a personal level and a corporate or international level. This interpersonal or intergroup process normally occurs because the parties involved intend to create alternatives that neither could do without the other. Lewicki et al. (2011, p.2) explain that negotiation is not a process reserved only for the trained diplomats, top salesperson or board managers; it is something that everyone does, almost daily. Yes, it is true that negotiation skills are basically the same anywhere they are practiced but may be complex in some contexts. Bazerman et al. (2009, p.281) define negotiation as a process whereby two or more individuals or groups each having its own expectations coordinate areas of interest through compromise to reach an agreement about areas of mutual concern without the use of power. By utilizing research articles, this paper will demonstrate negotiation as an interpersonal decision-making process useful every time an individual needs to achieve a goal but cannot do it without another party (Putnam, et al., 2010 p. 141). Furthermore, even the most structured of corporate transactions can be scaled down to a one-on-one interaction. As such, the scope of negotiation covers all aspects ranging from personal to highly complex operations.
Negotiation is an inevitable component of social life, and the parties that enter negotiation usually believe that they can get better control over their lives by becoming more effective during the negotiations. Usually, two or more parties enter into negotiation with certain expectations that have to be met for in order to reach an agreement. For instance, in the business context, a potential customer will negotiate on the price of a particular item, while the seller will also consider his or her least expectations regarding the transaction. According to Ames (2008, p.1548), a positive negotiation result can only be expected in this context if the expectations of the buyer and the seller overlap, or are within the zone of agreement as explained by (Carrell, et al., 2008 p. 38). However, the simple existence of a zone of agreement does not provide an assurance of a positive result of negotiation or any clear predictions as to the terms of agreement (Harinck, et al., 2004 p. 598). Usually, these outcomes depend on the negotiating skills of the parties involved. From another theoretical perspective, Menkel-Meadow, et al. (2014, p.37) describes the best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA), in that, in the context of a simple business transaction, the conservative approach applies, that is, no purchase or sale.
However, during bargaining, it is rare for the parties to reach an immediate consensus because they normally do not have the same goals. Often, agreements have to be made in which parties give and take concessions in order to determine the alternatives for a successful outcome. In the same way, when preparing for negotiations, it is necessary to examine individual expectations of the resultant outcome. That involves assessing own limitations before negotiations to be able to compromise so that both parties achieve mutual goals.
Most people fail to negotiate because they ignore the existence of a negotiation situation. When these people fail to recognize the need for negotiation, they tend to miss out on their desired outcomes, or may fail to manage a simple situation that they could have handled smoothly (Bazerman, et al., 2009 p. 308). Furthermore, people may overlook the need for negotiation in given situations which they may end up failing due to lack of knowledge and relevant negotiation skills. In most cases, collective bargaining and negotiation are used interchangeably. Negotiation is part of bargaining (Bazerman, et al., 2009 p. 306). The authors define bargaining as an institutional relationship that covers the parties involved in negotiation, expectations, and contexts necessary in resolving the conflict of interests between disputants. In this context, negotiation has been defined as the systematic interaction of social aspects focused on redefining their relationships.
People engage in dispute resolution and negotiations almost daily, sometimes without their knowledge. Negotiation occurs between parents and children, spouses, employers and employees, organizations, and political parties. In politics, negotiations have a profound influence as it seeks to satisfy social expectations which extend to the future. Simply, negotiation is a discussion between disputants attempting to come to an agreement. As such, it is an interpersonal communication exchange that occurs whenever one needs something from the other. Carrell, et al. (2008, p.73) asserts that negotiation contexts, whether negotiation of nations at war, negotiation for big project contract, or even between buyer and seller, have the basically the same goal. Often, very few people accept all decisions made by others because they all too want to be part of the decision that influences their lives, and may negotiate to resolve these differences.
Game theoretical approaches usually focus on antagonistic and hostile contexts. Mischel (2008, p.341) describes this theoretical model as a symmetrically prescriptive approach since it is the most efficient negotiating strategy for all parties. Furthermore, the game theoretical model assumes that negotiation process is part of a conflict and that the possible solution is to anticipate the outcome and create a solution based on the calculated outcome. That happens so as to avoid the possible losses to the participants if the conflict had taken place (Volkema, et al., 2013 p. 34). Particularly, a clear distinction has to be made regarding the costs of maintaining the non-agreement for the participants as well as the costs of a potential sanction or an open conflict between them. For instance, if a person urgently needs money and then tries to sell an asset, non-agreement on the transaction would incur costs for the person. However, if the same person is not in urgent need of the money, this approach would be virtually cost-free. In this way, negotiation is something that everyone does.
Different from possible sanctions, brinkmanship is another game theoretical strategy commonly used in explosive situations, and in which disagreements might arise by chance. In that sense, a conflict that might have appeared exaggerated gains more credibility. For example, the decision by U.S. President Kennedy to station US warships around Cuba is commonly regarded as a successful approach in brinkmanship. In this way, President Kennedy did not threaten any possibility of a third world war, unless the Soviet Union reconsidered its plans to threaten attacks on Cuba (Dewulf, et al., 2011 p. 11). These authors further observed that the reputation of a negotiator’s resolve influenced how participants analyzed the credibility of their conflicts regardless of the tangible context of the negotiations. Theorists such as Kray, et al. (2007, p.51) argue that this approach assumes that participants are aware of the consequences of their decisions, and thus are consistent with their behavior. Although currently the approach is considered as limited, game theory can influence the decisions of disputants to optimize their behavior in order to win the conflict.
Lytle, et al. (2008, p.41) developed four proposals for how to address negotiation impasses. The first approach is to separate participants from the problem as a way not to personalize conflicts. Secondly, the authors advise against focusing on fixed negotiating positions; rather individuals should consider how certain interests upon which mutual positions are developed can be satisfied. Flexibility can lead to innovative possibilities that satisfy the given interests, while also coinciding with the agenda of the negotiating counterpart. In conjunction with this perception, the third approach according to the authors is to create alternatives for mutual gain. That basically refers to the process of redefining the negotiations from a zero-sum to an all win situation. Finally, the authors suggest the application of objective criteria. These proposals conclude negotiations with regard to the basic power structure, but cover the threat in a more diplomatic fashion. However, a distinction or clear appreciation of the context in which the negotiations occur is not provided. Particularly, there is no guarantee as to the effectiveness of the proposed strategies depending on diverse contexts, or whether in some contexts, the need for WW solutions is reasonable at all. While this is the case, Bazerman, et al. (2009, p.281) believes that the context can have profound effects on negotiation outcomes.
The moment an event is spelled out, the original subject of dispute is revealed, that is, the reputation of the counterpart is opened up. Should the threatened side give in, the party will experience a double loss, namely the subject of conflict as well as the loss of reputation for resolves (Neale, et al., 2008 p. 47). These authors also found that in experiments hard negotiators usually reached better outcomes than a soft one. However, Ames (2008, p.1549) observed that only in cases where toughness reduced to the formulation of positional interests did negotiation tend to break down. In addition to the increasingly dominant training of diplomats and top officials on the negotiation skills, a special negotiation technique called Interactive Conflict Resolution (ICR) has also been formulated. This approach is commonly used in workshops with diverse personalities, individuals who are expected to apply the workshop knowledge to solve society’s ethnic conflict and to share it with the society. These initiatives include research mission, organizational and consulting development support of newly founded Public Relations, NGOs, and political education. These approaches converge to the conclusion that negotiation is something common in the society and people need skills to negotiate even on small issues that appear to compromise their relationships with friends, family, and workmates.
Typically, negotiations take place because the parties intend to formulate new possibilities that neither could on his or her own. As such, this process can occur anywhere because people are usually faced with situations that need proper consideration of all alternatives to reach a consensus. The parties understand that there is a conflict of interests between them and feel that they can influence the other to get a better share of the deal, rather than merely taking what the counterpart will provide them. Lytle, et al. (2008, p.42) explains that in the course of negotiation, the parties usually expect give and take situation. Despite having interlocking aspirations that they cannot achieve without the other, the parties usually do not need the same thing. This relationship can be either a win-win or win-lose in nature and the negotiation skills applied will vary depending on the context. For instance, the parties can either try to force the other to agree to their demands, to compromise their positions, or to formulate a solution that meets the goals of all sides. As Mischel (2008, p.339) asserts, the nature of this interdependence will also have a profound impact on their relationships, the process of negotiation, and the resultant outcomes.
Many people assume that negotiation is simply a give-and-take process to reach some kind of an agreement. Although this process is important, negotiation is a totally complex process (Kray, et al., 2007, p.47). According to these authors, most of the important aspects of negotiation outcome do not occur during the actual process. Instead, they occur before negotiations begin and may impact on the context under which negotiations occur. Managers need to understand cross-cultural issues surrounding the organization environment to be well equipped with a range of communication norms necessary for negotiations. According to Green, et al. (2009), that statement means that only skilled managers have the ability to negotiate with people of various backgrounds and nationalities. In the same, sense, individuals who have developed a bargaining strategy that works only within a specific subclass of the business environment will face numerous challenges unless they undergo training to advance their negotiation skills to work with diverse groups across cultures and the business world (Putnam, et al., 2010). While negotiation may be something that everyone does almost daily, it certainly does not apply in all contexts. However, Bazerman, et al. (2009) believes that it is not possible to develop a general negotiation skill to be used across different groups, contexts, and regions but one can develop special skills to provide positive behavioral approaches in any given context.
People negotiate almost daily. For example, friends can negotiate where to spend part of their summer holidays, and even children argue over which TV program to watch and can negotiate with their parents to stay up late for that reason. In the world of business, a marketing manager negotiates with operation manager to modify a production schedule for a specific customer. Not to mention, in all these situations, regardless of the contextual differences and subject matter, people are constantly negotiating. Olekalns (2011, p.198) states that negotiation is an important aspect of an individual’s daily life, and has compared negotiation to communication. Similar to communication, negotiation is an exchange of information in order to get what one needs from another. However, negotiation can work to continue or stop a relationship depending on the stakes at hand. This exchange serves to reach a consensus between parties who possess certain things in common while rejecting others.
The effective negotiation skills
While many people have countless opportunities to negotiate, a good number of them have little opportunity to learn the effective negotiation skills. As evidenced in Lytle, et al. (2008), the most vital aspect of learning is response. An effective response is characterized by time, specificity, and accuracy. While this is the case, the challenge is not entirely the lack of experience but the inadequacy of accurate and timely response. Lack of feedback leads to different kinds of human biases that hinder the process of negotiation. Such biases may include confirmation bias that results from individual’s curiosity and egocentrism that makes individuals have concern more concern for themselves than for others. While negotiation may be common to everyone, Bazerman, et al. (2009, p.283) believes that individuals need proper negotiation skills to benefit from effective feedback during negotiations. Furthermore, these biases hinder the process of learning and lead to prejudiced perceptions of reality.
Often, people are unaware of their own strengths and weaknesses which are vital elements in negotiations. Thompson (2006, p. 516) argues that people can address their incompetence and improve their effectiveness through double-loop learning. However, the majority are familiar with single-loop learning which only occurs when mistakes are corrected without altering the essential principles of negotiation. Thompson (2006, p.516) suggests that double-loop learning occurs when mistakes are corrected by altering the fundamental principles of negotiation followed by actions. Understanding the interests of the other party and making favorable decisions is the key to creating a mutually sustainable negotiation outcome. In this sense, Kray, et al. (2007, p.59) believes that skilled managers are well placed to practice double-loop approach to ensure effective negotiation outcome since untrained negotiators tend to consider personal interests in negotiations while overlooking the interests of their counterparts.
Lewicki (2011, p.2) also states that negotiations can occur not only to formulate something new that neither parties could do without the other but to resolve a conflict between the parties as well. Since people can negotiate about so many different things, the processes involved in negotiation also vary according to different contexts. Furthermore, in some contexts, there are many differences in outcomes and individual actions can have a great impact on producing these outcomes. Other studies show that the language and methods of negotiation also vary with the nature of negotiation that takes place. However, the basic procedures and the main principles of the process remains the same (Carrell, et al., 2008 p. 37). Negotiation being a process that involves diverse skills, one needs to understand the skills which are relevant to a particular scenario, as well as the elements of negotiation. It should be noted that negotiation involves parties with interlocking goals, with each expecting the other to cooperate in order to achieve a satisfactory outcome. In many cases, the participants begin negotiations with different views but share a common interest. While this is the case, both wish to persuade the other to change their positions and can sometimes compromise to reach an agreement. Several theorists have classified the parties and negotiation skills depending upon nature, personality, and the ability to take positions in the course of negotiations.
When planning for negotiations, one has to understand the various negotiation techniques and identify the ones they are comfortable with as well as the counterpart’s tactics. Negotiation is something people learn at a young age as a way to get what they want from. The techniques used for young people are emotional eruptions or drawing attention to themselves in public as a way to manipulate their parents. Even at such a young age, people negotiate, though the skills vary according to different contexts (Kray, et al., 2007 p. 58). This type of negotiation is considered one-sided because one party has a strong stance and does not care about the needs of the other, except to satisfy their individual needs. Studies show that this approach should be left for children and fictional characters in televisions (Mischel, 2008 p. 349). Although some scholars believe that negotiation involves some form of formal procedures, every thoughtful decision to get the better out of a situation is negotiation and can involve some forms of bargaining tactics.
In some situations, negotiations may not produce desired outcomes because success is never guaranteed. The involved parties may fail to reach an agreement but still, hold on the possibility of future negotiations. In such cases, an external intervention commonly referred to as third party assistance may be considered. The three forms third party intervention may involve conciliation, mediation, and arbitration (Thompson, 2006 p. 529). While conciliation and mediation seek to bring the disputants to a common agreement, arbitration tends to dictate the terms of the agreement which must be accepted by both parties. Thompson regards mediators as conciliators while arbitrators are considered as intimidators. However, he believes that mediation and conciliation are the most efficient ways to resolve disputes. In everyday life, individuals can enter into conflicts that both cannot reach an agreement until a trusted third party intervenes to redefine terms of the agreement between the disputants. However, other theorists believe that in the informal contexts, third party intervention may be overruled and the disputants tend to hold onto their rigid attitudes. As such, although negotiations are something done almost by everyone, it requires certain skills for particular situations. While this is the case, other theorists believe that negotiation occurs only when the involved parties are aware of the situation as well as the other party’s goals, and both intend to achieve mutual gain.
Negotiation might appear a complex aspect reserved for skilled diplomats or other top executives, but it is something that people experience almost daily. However, the kinds of negotiations carried out in the organizational and other corporate contexts are more complex and require detailed analysis of situations as well as the development of sound procedures to achieve successful outcomes. Even so, negotiations for a routine purpose also require various skills that a person has to practice over time to become a successful negotiator. However, Tenbrunsel, et al. (2009, p.279) believes the nature and the personality of an individual are what makes him or her successful negotiator. It is important to note that people are different holding different opinions and a negotiation is a tool that should be used to settle disputes. This paper has demonstrated that everyone is a negotiator, while successful negotiators develop their skills through practice over time. However, other theorists believe that negotiations occur only when all the parties are aware of the process as well as the expectations of the other to reach an agreement.
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