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Negotiation Skills Essay


It is likely for human beings to be involved in conflicts at one point or the other in their lifetime. How do we address these disputes? The more we grow and mature, the more we learn how to share, compromise and suspend the fulfillment of our needs. This can be in form of a disturbance from a dog barking in your neighbor’s home or hanging tree branch.

Either way, we are tempted to turn to reason as a means to solve our differences. This reasoning often has its limit of logic resulting to an unfulfilled solution. Even though this is a way of providing a solution to the problem, it does not involve getting our needs met.

In other cases, we may require the skills of others to assist in resolving our conflicts through such methods like arbitration and mediation. Needless to say, these are methods that are very expensive to the pockets of the parties involved with the end result being a probable annoyance before the dispute is settled.

At this point, the link between the parties involved is so much negatively affected that the effect of the process may be worse than the pre-existing stalemate (HBSP, 2005).

In order to not only meet our needs but also sustain our relationships, negotiation is the preferred method of reaching agreements. When the exchanges we have with the other party are friendly, we may not even realize that we are negotiating in an attempt to solve our everyday problems . One of the areas in which negotiations have proved very useful is in the employment relations.

Indeed, employment relations were a fertile ground for the early development of negotiations theory especially in unionized settings . Negotiations in these settings are characterized by interaction between two clearly differentiated labor and management institutions each with clear sense of their best interests.

Since the 1970s, there have been changes in employment relations, therefore, necessitating new and different forms of labor negotiations. Many of the negotiations structures that have come up are analogous in nature. Nevertheless, they continue to play a key role in the transition from arms-length relations to more tightly coupled forms of economic and social relations.

The big question is why negotiation is the preferred method to other methods of conflict resolution. What does one need to keep in mind when negotiating? How can one develop good negotiation skills? These are some of the questions that will be handled in this essay which bases its argument on the Kolb’s model.

Regardless of whether we consciously realize it or not, our daily life is characterized by an almost endless array of negotiations. They range from simple tasks like the decision on what to cook for dinner to more sophisticated matters such as resolving a conflict with a customer or co-worker.

It is obvious that negotiation is a skill or art that we must have in order to co-exist harmoniously with other people. Any successful negotiation goes beyond the restrictions of resolving conflict to include a small balance of meeting our needs while building strong connections with others.

In order to understand what negotiation is, it is important to understand what it is not. If a boss in a company gives an order to a subordinate, the only choice that the latter has is to do it. This is not negotiation by all means. When an unfamiliar is brought in to make a decision between two warring sides via arbitration, the sides are legally bound to abide by the arbitrator’s decision.

Once again, this is not negotiation. Another popular belief that has been held for long is that negotiation is a competitive game. This is quite wrong because when we negotiate, we do not compete with the aim of defeating the opponents. Instead, we aim to do the best we can for ourselves.

In that case, for a negotiation to be termed as effective in its proper context, it should be viewed as a means of pursuing interests. Having looked at what negotiation is not, it is only fair now to embark on analyzing what it is.

Negotiation can be viewed as a process that involves making joint decisions in a scenario where the involved parties have varied preferences. Simply put, it is a way of getting what you want when making decisions. A lot of literature exists on the definition, types and how to negotiate effectively. However for purposes of this essay, I have chosen to stick to this simple definition of the negotiation.

This is because it has the fundamentals of the process. Though the contexts in which the negotiation may take place differ, the underlying principle is that each party has to genuinely desire an agreement. If the agreement cannot be applied, this affects the whole process because the solutions arrived at should be likely (Menhert, 2008).

There exist three major types of negotiations. These are the positional, principled and situational negotiations. Positional negotiation happens to be the traditional form of negotiation whereby the parties involved work under a command if they are in a position of no compromise; the whole process becomes unsuccessful . The process can only succeed if all aspects opposing positions are explored to find a middle ground.

This strategy, as the name suggests, involves holding on to a fixed position of what you want and arguing for it irrespective of the underlying interests. A classic example to this is when a customer goes to a store to buy a certain commodity.

He or she has the maximum amount that s/he is willing to pay while the vendor will sell the item at a certain minimum price. The two sides will start with an extreme position but eventually, a compromise will be made. This type of negotiation has its short falls (F3fundit.com).

One of the reasons that make positional negotiation an unlikely option in solving conflicts is because, as the process goes on, the parties involved become more and more inclined to their positions continually restating and holding them. This strong commitment to holding one’s position results to a lack of attention by both parties.

Any agreement that will be reached will be a reflection of a mechanical splitting of the disparities between final positions instead of a solution well-crafted in meeting legal interests of the parties (F3fundit.com). This strategy is unlikely to result to a win-win outcome and therefore leads to bad feelings between the parties due to a dissatisfaction of one of the parties with the outcome.

The second type of negotiation is often referred to as the ‘Harvard Model’, whereby the parties are encouraged to search for the basic principles supporting their positions. This process is mostly preferred by most of the specialists as it is full of creativity and a background of offering objectives rather than solutions.

There is a high chance of the process being successful because in contrast to positional bargaining, the parties involved possess a sense of achievement instead of loss (Vaux, 2011).

Moreover, there is a high possibility of this strategy changing into positional negotiation or overcoming the whole issue if emotions are allowed to be the part of the process. The last type of negotiation is situational in nature, and it takes place when the two types discussed earlier go against the set guidelines. Compared to the others, it is more indirect since messages are relayed to a third party hence time consuming.

Having explored the three basic types of negotiation that exist, the focus of the paper shifts to personal experience in acquiring. A number of issues will be addressed in this section. These include the whole experience of developing negotiations skills, what one should keep in mind while negotiating as well as lessons learnt from the complexity of the negotiation process.

There is no doubt that human beings behave differently in different situations. That is why it may prove difficult to give a personal account of the negotiation process. However, the essay concentrates much on the essentials of the process and less of individual experience.

This is because experiences rely heavily on outcomes whose nature is concrete, specific, quantifiable or measurable (Menhert, 2008). There is little one can do with the outcome to solve the issues at hand, after all.

From my experience, I have succeeded in challenging a few myths surrounding negotiation. One of this is the popular belief that negotiation is unpredictable. This is not true. Negotiating behavior at least from my point of view-happens to fall into patterns that are recognizable, and that can be responded by sensible observers.

When entering into any negotiation, the predictive power of knowing the workings of experienced negotiators should not be considered as useless . A classic example of this is to study how lawyers and attorneys argue their case.

As such, because they are daily involved in solving conflicts in courtrooms, people may think that they are effective negotiators. However, this may not be the case because there are many factors that determine how effective a negotiation is.

In an effort to know what makes an effective negotiation, it is important to understand the context in which negotiations are done determine the effectiveness of the process. On legal matters, for instance lawyers, effective negotiators may be viewed as those who get more money from their clients. Still on judicial matters, I also found out that an effective negotiator may be the one whose client is satisfied.

Another observation was that for negotiation to be effective, both parties have to be satisfied. A number of people also suggested to me that effective negotiation is the one that beats the opponent by . That is why while studying the composition of an effective negotiation process, it is important to consider the situation in which the negotiation is being held as well as the definition of effectiveness of the process.

Effective negotiation is a learned personality but not a case of being in a particular career. There are many models that suggest the stages one has to follow in order to be an effective negotiator. There is no doubt that we all learn through different styles. Some people are auditory learners, others are visual. However for purposes of this essay, the model that will be highly valued is the Kolb model.

Kolb (1984) identifies the learning process as knowledge creation by transforming experiences. He further adds that knowledge is a combination of what we experience and how we alter it. Why should negotiation be equated with learning? Are there any similarities between the two? In deed there exists a close link between the two concepts as shall be discussed.

According to Kolb, learning has six characteristics. Just like negotiation, learning is best considered as a process. The main focus in both is not on the outcomes but the means of arriving at them. In other words, the ends do not justify the means but the former do. Another characteristic that makes learning similar to negotiation is the fact that the two are continuous processes grounded in experience (Kolb, 1999).

Indeed, conflict resolution is the sole duty of the negotiation process. Tension exists in the learning process and so does in negotiation. The decision is a trial to be conventional. Another characteristic existing in both learning and the negotiation process is the fact that they include exchanges between a person and the environment.

For the case of negotiation, the environment is the other party on the negotiation table . Lastly, learning results from the transaction between social familiarity and personal understanding. These two requirements are also very important in the negotiation process.

The above similarities point out that the negotiation process is very much related to the learning. It follows suit that the process and experience gained in acquiring negotiation skills is much similar to that of learning. As such, this essay will explore the Kolb’s model of learning and how it is related with the negotiation process.

Before moving to extra details of the theory or rather the model, it is important to understand why the model is called the experiential learning model. The model is experiential because, it is based on pointer of what we experience but not our experimenting. Kolb argues that we learn and develop after we have experienced. This theory will prove very relevant when later in the essay I address its link with the negotiation process .

David Kolb’s learning model is founded on two steps forming a quadrant. The first one is called the processing step. This deals with our approach to a task like our preference to learn by doing to watching. The other one is perception. This affects our emotional reactions on preference on adopting a certain style of learning say thinking or learning.

The resultant matrix is composed of four phases that are very crucial for learning to be effective. It is crucial to establish that Kolb’s model is not only a learning style but also a program. Each of the stage is reflected in the learning process. The resultant cycle has four steps namely: feeling, watching, thinking and doing .

By concrete experience, Kolb suggests that it is better to learn by feeling and being sensitive to other people’s feelings. We then relate the specific experiences to people. Under reflective observation or watching, he argues that we observe the environment from many perspectives before making a judgment and in order to look for the meaning of things.

The thinking stage involves logic where one’s action on an idea is determined by the cognitive understanding of the situation at hand. The last stage is that of active experimentation or doing . This is the ability to do things through impartation on others and events via our actions.

It also includes risk taking. Although one may learn in any stage of the Kolb process, going through the four stages puts him or her in a more favorable condition depending on the prevailing circumstances.

Kolb (1999) holds that the learning process is a context of people who move from the four stages and therefore for one to learn effectively, they should balance the stages. He also adds that concrete experience and abstract conceptualization are a reflection of right brain and left brain in that order.

The four combinations of the Kolb model determine the learning style one prefers. This is because learning styles are not fixed qualities but instead they are a stable pattern of conduct grounded on a leaner’s background and experience. That is why learning styles are more of preferences than styles.

Having looked at the Kolb’s model in detail, the big question now is how it can be applied in acquiring negotiation skills. From a personal account, I have found the model very relevant. As a recap of an initial statement, negotiation is a process and so is learning. It is a skill acquired by following the four stages of the Kolb model of learning.

The first stage involves concrete experience. In order to negotiate effectively, one has to learn from specific examples; these may be earlier encounters or the daily interactions with people. It is also important to be sensitive to the party’s feelings by being empathetic.

Empathy will ensure that your relationship with the other party is not affected even after the process. This however does not imply that you become soft on them and lose your focus on meeting your interest in the bargain .

The second step is that of reflective observation. For one to be an effective negotiator, he or she ought to be watchful. One has to address the issue causing disagreement from different perspectives before forging your bargain. This will prevent bringing into the process to rigid stands and ideas that may stall the whole thing.

Under the abstract conceptualization stage, a negotiator has to logically analyze ideas and act only after he or she has intellectually understood the situation . One should not jump into conclusions before giving every opportunity for a middle ground a second thought. Lastly, under active experimentation, a negotiator should be in a position to influence the other party in order to reach a solution to a conflict.

This should go to the extent of risk taking in the form of compromise in order to reach a satisfying solution to the tight spot the two sides are faced with. The four modes are therefore as important in learning as they are in acquiring negotiation skills.

Based on the analysis of the Kolb model of learning and its relevance in the negotiation process, there are few lessons that an effective negotiator should keep in mind while on the negotiation table. The first thing is to analyze one’s position and define what they hope to achieve with the negotiations.

The analysis should be done objectively. Just like your case, learn about the other side and what they too want to achieve. The more informed one is before the negotiations, the better prepared they will be before the process starts.

A negotiator should also eliminate personal feelings. In any negotiation, it may be easy to let one’s personal opinion stall the process or become too emotional. One should learn to terminate the two tendencies, and instead employ a polite and professional conduct always. One should too be prepared to compromise. This does not mean that one should not stick to their guns.

The idea is for one to know what they are willing to fight for and never let the need for striking a deal to push them to a compromise . Another thing to put in mind when negotiating especially in formal situations is to prove and authorize any agreement you make. In fact, it should be put in writing, indicate all the details and be signed by every party.

To make the decision arrived at in a negotiation legal abiding, it may be necessary to notarize or have it looked by a lawyer. This confirmation of the agreement is prevention of future misunderstandings hence ensuring enactment of the agreement’s condition (Menhert, 2008).

In conclusion, putting into consideration all the above points will place one in a favorable condition on the negotiation table . The Kolb’s learning model will, by all means, come in hand for anyone who endeavors to become an effective negotiator.

However as noted earlier in this essay, it is important to note that the effectiveness of the negotiation process depends much on the nature of the conflict as well as definition of effectiveness. Nevertheless, the basic negotiation skills are extremely crucial in the contemporary world and every one should long to learn them. They should not be viewed as the duty of lawyers or human resource professionals.

References list

Asherman, A & Asherman, S (2001), Negotiation source book (2nd ed.), Harvard: Amherst.

Beauttah, A (2008), Major processes of negotiation, Prentice Hall: New Jersey.

BM, C., Bray, M., Wairing, P., & Cooper, R (2008), Employment relations: theory and practice, McGraw Hill: New York.

Clevend, B (2006), Negotiation skills.,Cengage Learning: New York.

Downs, L ( 2008), Negotiations skills training,ASTD East Petoria: Illinois.

F3fundit.com (2011), The art of negotiation-Positional bargaining. Web.

Harvard Business School Press (HBSP) (2005),The essentials of negotiation. Harvard University Press: Boston.

Kolb , D (1984),Experiential learning: experience as the source of learning and development, Prentice Hall: Englewood Cliffs.

Kolb, D (1999), The Kolb Learning Style Inventory (Version 3, ed.),Hay Group: Boston.

Menhert, M (2008), Negotiation: Definition, types, manager’ issues in negotiation, cultural differences and the negotiation process, GRIN Verlag: Norderstedt.

Vaux, R, eHow (2011), How to develop negotiation skills. Web.

Walton, R. M (1989), . Web.

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