Conflicts are a constant reality in our society and the effective resolution of the same may spell the difference between a successful and failed society. It is therefore imperative that the people involved in the conflict resolve the contentious issues constructively.
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Key to the constructive resolution of conflicts is the use of negotiation tactics and strategies. This is because a deeper understanding of negotiation results in people being properly equipped to diffuse conflicts for the good of all parties involved.
Knowledge of the negotiation process is therefore vital for effective conflict resolution. In this paper, I shall set out to give a detailed description of the steps involved in the negotiation process
Negotiation is defined as “communication for the purpose of persuasion (Shamir, 2003; Goldberg, Sander & Rogers, 1992). The negotiation process is therefore a process by which parties to a dispute discuss possible outcomes to their conflict with each other.
The parties make proposals, demands and argue out until an acceptable solution is arrived at or a deadlock declared. For the negotiation process, the parties involved might choose to adopt one of the two major negotiating approaches: competition or collaboration.
Competition is based on opposing interests and ends up in a win-lose scenario while collaborative is based on common interests therefore yielding to a win-win outcome.
The first step in the negotiation process is to describe what it is that you want to negotiate. This is based on the concept that negotiation involves a conflict about particular resources. The participants will therefore identify if there is a situation that needs to be negotiated.
Lack of an identifiable area of conflict invariably renders negotiations unnecessary. Having acknowledged the conflict, the negotiations can be deemed as being ready to begin. The process ideally begins by both parties presenting their issues which are mostly in the form of demands and goals to be met.
The particular demands and goals for the parties involved may be well defined or vague and confusing. A goal is defined as a known or presumed commercial or personal interest of all or some of the parties to the negotiation and it is these goals that set the grounds for the negotiation process.
From this an outline of expectations from the parties involved can be made and the agenda for the negotiation process outlined.
Having established the basis for the negotiation, one can now delve deeper into the task. While the preliminary stage acted as ground for negotiation, the information on the issues at hand was only sparingly addressed. The second step involves a deeper probing to enable both parties to understand each other better.
As such, this step is characterized by the informational exchange between the parties involved in a bid to establish the real needs and goals. Each side aims at understanding the opponent, their limits and how far they are willing to compromise so as to reach a consensus.
Use of open-ended questions and allowing the other party to correct your understanding of the issue are some of the best means of ensuring that a good understanding of the issues at hand is attained. Restatement of information leads to clarity and confirmation thus assuring that communication is effective.
A key element in this step is to get as much information as is possible to enable the parties to come up with as many options as are possible. It is in this stage that a person can also gain a better appreciation of the other party’s point of view.
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This will be hugely beneficial since once you are able to look at the conflict from the other person’s point of view, you can propose solutions that they would find appealing and therefore resolve the issue.
Once it has been clearly established what each party wants, the next step involves trying to influence the other party to reach a concession that is beneficial to you. The principle reason for negotiating is to try and produce better results than you can obtain without negotiation (Shamir, 2003; Fisher et al., 1991).
It should be noted that persuasion may be achieved in the competitive approach by resorting to threats or in the collaborative approach by the appealing to the principles or common interests of the other party.
Regardless of whichever approach is adopted, the aim of persuasion is to make the opposition sympathetic to your perspective on the issue or coerce them to respond more favorably to you demands. This step therefore involves making appeals to the opponent in a bid to come up with a favorable result.
Concession trading which is the aim of good negotiation is the next stage in negotiating. Shamir (2003) defines consensus building as a decision and agreement reached by all the identified parties. In this process, each party is required to reduce their demands or aspirations so as to accommodate the other party.
Through this process, unanimous agreement over the disputed issue(s) is reached. At the onset of the negotiating process, the parties involved are at loggerheads or in disagreement at the least. However, after working down the stages of the negotiation process, the parties involved are able to reach an agreement by compromising on the original goals and objectives.
As such, each side makes some gains and possibly some loses. In the consensus building stage of negotiating, time plays a critical role. It is important that each party is given as much time as is necessary to reach their decisions.
As such, deadlines are ideally not supposed to be imposed though this may not be practicable in most real life scenarios where time of essence. The reason for this is that applying of pressure may lead to a decision being taken that some may regret therefore leading to future conflicts.
The agreements arrived at should be finalized and subsequently formalized since in as much as an agreement has been reached, that by itself does not guarantee that the implementation will proceed undeterred. Creation of methods of implementation and monitoring should be achieved.
Shamir (2003) suggests that for significant issues, an agenda and timetable should be decided upon and the various issues which have been agreed outlined. A clear and detailed description of the steps to be taken to make sure that the formal agreement is implemented should also be made.
As was stated at the onset of this paper, negotiation is one of the most productive means by which disputes can be successfully resolved. An understanding of the negotiating process greatly empowers a person in his/her negotiating undertakings. This paper set out to give a detailed outline of the key steps in the negotiation process.
While the process described herein is basic and might have to be modified to be applicable to the specific disputes at hand, it provides a good framework for negotiation tasks. An understanding and proper implementation of these process will lead to greater success during negotiations.
Shamir, Y. (2003). Alternative Dispute Resolution Approaches and their Application. PCCP Publications.