Nowadays rapidly developing world sets new opportunities and challenges in the field of business communications. Following the requirements of the globalized community, people tend to interact with others more, using various strategies. One of these communication strategies is the phenomenon of extreme negotiations. In this connection, this paper aims at studying the notion of extreme negotiations and their application along with benefits and pitfalls.
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Identification of Extreme Negotiations
Speaking of negotiations, people usually put them in the framework of business relationships, namely, seller-buyer ones. This term implies the achievement of mutual understanding between two sides the consequence of which is a compromise (Weiss, Donigian & Hughes 2010). However, in the conditions of modern business, it becomes difficult to establish good relationships and achieve a certain goal at the same time. Therefore, some representatives of the business world prefer to use extreme negotiations that refer to some level of pressure that makes a partner feel nervous, threatened, and even burdened, thus allowing the other partner to succeed. In other words, it is negotiation under duress. The initiation of such negotiations that are also known as dangerous ones requires an increased level of awareness from the party that intends to win (Weiss, Donigian & Hughes 2010). In particular, there is a need to be more motivated, more familiar with the peculiarities of the other party, and more focused on the ultimate goal.
Extreme negotiations as a process can be defined as “a set of activities to be performed in a disciplined way – getting instructions, developing a strategy, preparing, conducting negotiations, and review” (Weiss & Hughes 2011, para. 12). As a process, extreme negotiations imply relationships between people intended to reach the agreement when both parties have conflicting interests. These negotiations are projected primarily to help with the mutual exchange of views in the form of various proposals for the solution of the problem under discussion. Likewise traditional negotiations, extreme ones may consist of presentations and speeches, questions and answers, objections, and evidence. Therefore, it is necessary to develop and use special tactics and techniques for conducting for every negotiation.
Speaking of the organizational aspect of dangerous negotiations, it is important to answer the question of how to react to “take it or leave it” statements that are usually set by the other party. To address the challenge of extreme negotiations, a negotiator is to consider them as a business process. The next step refers to the necessity of sending clear and consistent messages. For example, it should be kept in mind that people tend to have different attitudes and perceptions, cultural peculiarities, and specific viewpoints. Besides, the counterparts that develop a common instrument and speak the same language with each other have more chances to come up with a solution that will be advantageous for both of them. It should be noted, however, that speaking the same language here should be understood as being on the same wavelength. Last but not least is the fact that the organization of extreme negotiations is to be systematic and comprehensive, thus embracing various aspects such as preparation, process, and communication.
The method of extreme negotiations is widely used in various fields of business communication. For example, some companies can use it while discussing a profitable bargain or purchasing consignment. It should be noted that many CEOs and senior managers have limited timeframes and resources when they constantly are in the condition of negotiations with staff, customers, partners, and other interested parties. These circumstances create an atmosphere of continuous pressure that can lead to burnout (Graham, Lawrence & Requejo 2014). The situation is complicated by the fact that sometimes millions and even billions of dollars are at high stake. Thus, extreme negotiations force executives to adapt to the modern ever-changing environment to remain competitive and successful.
However, not only the business area involves extreme negotiations but also military communication. For example, the so-called hot spot territories like Afghanistan or Syria where hostilities occur permanently can be noted. The United States officers encounter this method of negations “attempting to persuade wary local leaders to share valuable information while simultaneously trying to distinguish friend from foe” (Weiss, Donigian & Hughes 2010, para. 3). This means that officers need to build stable relationships with the local population to support the United States. At the same time, they need to protect their troops and thus preserve their lives. Even though business and military contexts are quite different, it is possible to find a common feature between them: both of them aim at the immediate resolution of crucial issues when failure may cost either a business or a life.
Preparation to Extreme Negotiations
Before entering these negations, a negotiator needs to prepare himself or herself to cope with them. In one of their interviews with Harvard Business Review, Weiss and Hughes (2011) offer a seven-element checklist that provides a potential negotiator with valuable recommendations. It seems appropriate to consider each of the mentioned elements in brief. The first one refers to the interests of each party involved in negotiations. It is suggested by the authors that both similar and different interests are to be considered, thus revealing the conflict of interests. Second, it is essential to think about alternatives for each party and ways to improve the available solutions.
Third, a negotiator should brainstorm a range of possible solutions that are likely to lead to the agreement. Some criteria or standards that can legitimize the above solutions should be considered as the next step. After that, it is important to specify commitments each party can make and analyze the nature of relationships between them (Weiss, Donigian & Hughes 2010). Finally, a negotiator should plan his or her communication, including agenda, potential agreements and disagreements, and plan of action. In other words, preparation activities for extreme negotiations differ from the usual ones by the fact that the first requires a high level of awareness and excellent knowledge, skills, and strategy allowing adapting to changing conditions.
Implementation Strategies Leading to Success
The extremely high levels of uncertainty and risk cause pressure and stress in either both or a sole party involved in the process of negotiations. As a result, a negotiator tends to choose coercion rather than collaboration and one-sided concessions instead of compromise. Studying the behaviors of officers in hot spots, Weiss, Donigian, and Hughes (2010) identified the five most frequent strategies to deal with extreme negotiations. It seems appropriate to point out each of them in detail.
Understanding Big Picture
This strategy focuses on the consideration of broad perspectives based on a comprehensive analysis. To broaden his or her horizons, a negotiator is to pay attention to all the peculiar features of the opposite side, be it a point of view or non-verbal communication. Extreme negotiations usually make people speak in a hurry and miss an opportunity to evaluate the situation as a whole. In most cases, this leads to failure. Weiss, Donigian, and Hughes (2010) provide the following example: there was a need to respond to fighters’ actions quickly along with the shortage of properly trained people. Despite the fact, the command was given to local police representatives who insisted on a high probability of failure. In effect, they came back with too little information that turned out to be insufficient to decide on the issue.
To gather information, a negotiator should pay acute attention to his or her interlocutors and properly interpret their behavior. Another example of understanding the big picture method relates to business relationships. Two large companies were negotiating for half a year. During the final meeting, a new representative of one of the parties suddenly declared that they would collaborate only with a 20 percent discount (Weiss, Donigian & Hughes 2010). This predictably confuses and even shocks the other party. Instead of acting under the influence of emotions, the latter party understands that it was, probably, the personal initiative of a new representative who tried to make a name by such an action. It should be emphasized that the situation was understood due to the analysis of the whole picture. In other words, this method of extreme negotiations assumes that a negotiator continuously strives to understand the true incentives of the other party. Such competencies as being humble and curious make it possible.
Uncover and Collaborate
The second strategy refers to concerns and motivation on the other side. Being aware of the mentioned elements, it is necessary to create several solutions and offer them to the other party, resulting in the collective discussion. However, it should be kept in mind that “a threatening situation makes people want to look strong and more in control than they probably are” (Weiss & Hughes 2011, para. 16). This means that counterparts are at risk of taking rash actions and overestimating their potential. Discussions can become ineffective and aggressive. Let us consider the example described by Weiss, Donigian, and Hughes (2010). After one of the armed struggles, Captain wanted to visit the only hospital in the region, aiming at the establishment of his company’s authority. After meeting the rejection to enter the hospital, he forced his command and then encountered disturbance of the local population, especially elderly people. In the framework of the uncover and collaborate strategy, he explained to people that they need to work together to benefit both sides.
From the above example, it becomes evident that a good negotiator sets side-by-side problem-solving strategy to engage the other party in collaboration. This can be achieved by asking the appropriate questions. For instance, instead of asking “what do you want”, it is better to wonder “why is it important to you” (Weiss & Hughes 2011). Besides, it is critical to remember that the other party also observes and interprets the behaviors of its counterparts. Therefore, simple agreement or denial may only worsen the situation, while strong and convincing arguments are likely to work otherwise. Instead, a range of options suggested for further conversation will show that a negotiator is interested in collaboration and ready to discuss its conditions.
Elicit Genuine Buy-In
It is widely known that fairness and facts persuade more than force and an aggressive manner. According to the third strategy, extreme negotiations are not an exception. However, dangerous consequences often make counterparts to apply a brute force that is caused by human instincts. Nevertheless, Weiss and Hughes (2011, para. 20) state that “the effective in extremis negotiator recognizes that his objectives will almost always be better achieved if he elicits true buy-in rather than grudging compliance from the other side”. Threats, arbitrary demands, and close-minded decisions are to be replaced by appeals to facts, logic, and fairness. Let us consider a real-life example where a company faces price erosion as many customers threaten it to choose its competitor. It should be stressed there that the company has a significant technological benefit as well as such a competitive advantage as the quality of products. Instead of responding in the same manner, this company uses mild strategy and focuses on the value of its products, thus preventing conflict. Using facts and pointing at standards and principles of the corresponding business area, the company persuades its customers in the effectiveness of their collaboration.
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Build Trust First
Cooperation and trust are the two key issues that play an integral role in extreme negotiations. Weiss et al. (2012, para. 2) argue that “negotiating in high stakes, high-risk context frequently produces a temptation to buy cooperation”. Nevertheless, these attempts usually look cumbersome and lead to misunderstanding. The limited timeframe does not allow the negotiators to ponder over the problems and come up with the elaborate decisions. At the same time, there is a concession trap that is especially widespread among military officers. For example, the case presented by Weiss and Hughes (2011) seems to be quite important to understand the issue. The authors note a military officer who opened a female school in Afghanistan and was harassed by local military leaders. It is not surprising that this fact was detected by the police representatives and the officer was arrested and then justified, yet he experienced physical and mental harm and lost his reputation.
It should be noted that people who lead the dialogue create the so-called zone of emotional involvement the boundaries of which are defined by voice, volume, tone, statement of thoughts, facial expressions, gestures, speech pace, and so on (Weiss & Hughes 2011). The probability of emotional involvement of another person grows in a stressful situation, and, as a consequence, the ability to think and act rationally significantly decreases. Therefore, through building trustful relationships or preserving the existing ones, a negotiator can achieve cooperation. Usually, the most productive way to do it is to speak openly and simply so that the other party can see the real state of affairs. Besides, cooperation can be built with the help of a joint discussion of the perspective alternatives and subsequent consideration of their consequences (Weiss & Hughes 2011). Offering the idea and then attentively listening to the opinion of the other side, a negotiator will grab the attention of its counterpart and show awareness.
Focus on Process
The last strategy can be understood as one that integrates the process of negotiations and their outcome. These are the two core issues that require the attention of a negotiator. Sometimes extreme negotiations can be resolved by simple distraction from the topic and short break time to let both parties ponder over the problems that are to be addressed. According to Weiss and Hughes (2011, para. 32), “giving in on critical issues may create exposure to risk far beyond the immediate threat”. Let us consider the explanation of the above statement on the example. The challenge of merging was faced by the two companies concerning such aspects as organizational structure, budgeting, and personnel. They were missing the fact that generalized problems are much difficult to resolve. Instead, it was useful to focus on smaller issues and address each of them to agree. In other words, both parties worked jointly over the process of negations and, therefore, were able to merge with minimal losses as a result.
The mentioned case shows that it is of great importance to avoid speaking of benefits each decision may bring, yet focus on the process, answering the question of how one can achieve the best results possible. Slowing the pace of extreme negotiations down, the parties allow themselves to offer more relevant and properly organized suggestions related to the problem. Weiss et al. (2012, para. 15) claim that “by understanding the tactics used by the customer and then changing their preparation and negotiation process to respond to these tactics”, a skilled negotiator can achieve his or her preferred outcomes. Summing it up, it is essential to emphasize that several hours of aggressive negotiations usually lead to failure and broken relationships with the other party, while the adequate pace and conscious actions help to conduct productive interaction and collaboration.
Skills Required to Use Implementation Strategies
The positive outcome expressed in a compromise can be achieved because the partners agreed to collaborate, taking into account the discussed considerations. To get closer to the position of the partner, the other party needs to mentally anticipate the possible consequences of a compromise solution for both of them and critically evaluate concessions (Weiss & Hughes 2011). The situation when the proposed compromise exceeds one’s competence may also occur. To maintain contact with a partner, it is possible then to proceed with the so-called conditional agreement, for example, to refer to the agreement as a competent manager. However, it is sometimes difficult to quickly agree to concessions acceptable to both sides as one of them may persist in its opinion by inertia. Therefore, it takes patience, appropriate motivation, and the ability to engage the partner with strong arguments and creative ways to address a problem, using all opportunities arising from negotiations.
After identifying one’s strengths and weaknesses, a negotiator is expected to understand how he or she can influence the interlocutor, for example, pointing the prospects of cooperation with his or her company and the other party can put some pressure, for example, more favorable terms offered by the competitors (Weiss & Hughes 2011). In this connection, one of the skills requires to conduct effective negotiations is adequate preparation. In particular, employing the seven-element checklist provides a significant foundation. Another skill focuses on the practice of negotiation. A person can start with low-risk negotiations and then proceed with high-risk ones so that to be ready for different situations.
After extreme negotiations were finished, it is crucial to assess them including the very process, results, and problems that were faced in the course of the discussion. At the same time, it is advantageous to have a feedback from the other party that will allow a negotiator to take a new look at his or her communication strategy as well as techniques that were applied (Weiss & Hughes 2011). In response, a negotiator may also teach and provide feedback to the other side, thus promoting the perspective relationships, be it business or military collaboration. Finally, such competencies as attentiveness and responsiveness will show one’s partner that he or he is quite interesting and important.
How to Avoid Manipulation?
It goes without saying that suppressed people tend to act in the way their suppressor prefers. The same can be related to extreme negotiations. However, is there any way to avoid manipulation? Some strategies that were discussed above are undoubtedly useful, yet the following practical recommendations should be noted as well. The simplest way to avoid such a situation is not to engage in this type of negotiation. In case one feels uncomfortable and that he or she cannot handle the situation, it is better to break negotiations off and postpone them. If tension steadily grows, any drastic action can be useful to defuse the situation, be it a loudly sound or an unexpected comparison. In case a person is forced to make a decision based on some facts, it can be significant to write everything down and take time out to consider the situation (Graham, Lawrence & Requejo 2014).
At this point, it is crucial to remember that all the facts should be given concerning credible sources. Answering improper questions, it is possible to openly and immediately ask the so-called symmetrical questions. For example, in the framework of negotiations on cooperation, your opponent may ask: “Do you want to make money on us?”. It is better to answer in the following way: “Yes, we aim to make money. And you?”. As soon as it is pronounced, the possibility of manipulation by the interlocutor is significantly reduced. After that, extreme negotiations can be transferred into a peaceful course, if required.
During dangerous negotiations, it is of great importance for a negotiator to learn to control his or her behavior. It can be beneficial to try to look at the situation and evaluate actions from different angles. This approach will help to determine the point at which one can become a “puppet” in someone’s hand. Besides, one should be concerned about his or her changed gestures or strange actions such as tapping on the table, unnecessarily rubbing their hands, etc. (Graham, Lawrence & Requejo 2014). For example, stroking the thighs with both hands is an unconscious gesture indicating that a person wants to leave negotiations. In this case, the subconscious mind alerts him or her of potential danger. Therefore, it can be the best solution to leave negotiations for a while to calm down and decide whether one wants to continue or not. It is also useful to wash one’s face, because the impact of water starts reflex mechanisms that soothe the heart and regulate metabolism, thus balancing your decision concerning the continuation of negotiations.
Considering typical negotiations between a seller and a buyer, the position of both sides becomes quite clear: a buyer wants to buy a product at a low price and pay for it later, while a seller wants to sell at a higher price and get money immediately. If a negotiator prepares for such negotiations and deploys them correctly, he or she can easily convert them into comfortable negotiations that will take into account the interests of both parties. It is necessary then to pay attention to two factors, including the price of a product and payment delay (Graham, Lawrence & Requejo 2014). Being a seller, a person can indicate the minimum price in advance at a minimum deferment of payment and openly report it to the partner. It will create a choice for the other party – to take a product at the lowest price but to pay immediately or do it later but at a higher price. As a result, the partner gets into a situation where extreme negotiations are meaningless. There is a minimum price below which a seller is not likely to fall. Therefore, the only decision is to discuss payment details.
Completing Extreme Negotiations
If the outcome of extreme negotiations was positive, then it is necessary to summarize and briefly repeat the main points that were discussed in the course of negotiations. Most importantly, the positive points on which the parties agreed are to be mentioned as well. This will ensure the fact that all the participants of negotiations clearly understand the essence of the key provisions of the agreement. It also seems advantageous to discuss the perspective of new meetings. In case extreme negotiations resulted in a negative outcome, it is critical to try to preserve the established contact with the negotiating partner. In this case, the attention is to be paid not on the subject of negotiations but in business aspects, allowing maintaining business relationships in the future. In other words, it is better to avoid debriefing of those sections that had no positive effect. It is desirable to find a topic that will be of interest to both parties, defuse the situation, and help to create a friendly and relaxed atmosphere. The final step of negotiations consists of a thorough analysis and subsequent conclusion.
In conclusion, it is important to emphasize that the success of extreme negotiations largely depends on the level of preparation. During the process of negotiations, it is essential to be clear about the key subject, goals, and problems. It was revealed that extreme negotiations are composed of production and exchange of a particular set of promises that meet the fundamental interests of all parties involved in negotiations. Effective extreme negotiations usually contain the three processes such as proper communication; effective learning, and responsible use of power. The counterparts are to have sufficient competence, knowledge regarding the subject of negotiations, and be able to fully take into account both subjective and objective interests of the other side. To achieve a compromise, negotiating partners should trust each other by building open and collaborative relationships. Despite their dangerous and sometimes aggressive nature, extreme negotiations should present a dialogue that implies asking appropriate questions, listening to the partner, and applying various strategies. The positive outcome of negotiations should be seen as their natural completion, therefore, concluding remarks should examine the content of the agreement, reflecting the interests of both parties.
Graham, JL, Lawrence, L & Requejo, WH 2014, Inventive negotiation: Getting beyond yes, Palgrave Macmillan, New York.
Weiss, J, Donigian, A & Hughes, J 2010, ‘Extreme negotiations’, Harvard Business Review, Web.
Weiss, J & Hughes, J 2011, ‘Implementing strategies in extreme negotiations’, Harvard Business Review, Web.
Weiss, J, Siddall, B, Glatz, K & Hughes, J 2012, ‘“Extreme Negotiations” with Customers’, Vantage Partners, Web.