By Goke Ilesanmi
Last week, we said embracing and mastering essentials of effective negotiation as individuals, educational institutions, corporate organisations and governments is very imperative. We explained that negotiation simply refers to the way through which people settle differences and a process by which compromise or agreement is reached while avoiding argument and dispute.
We said in any disagreement, individuals understandably aim to achieve the best possible outcome for their positions or the organisations they represent. We added that the principles of fairness, which tilt towards seeking mutual benefits and maintaining cordial relationships, are very critical to achieving a successful outcome. We said different types of negotiation are used in different contexts. We educated that the level to which negotiating parties trust each other to implement the negotiated solution is a major factor in determining the success or otherwise of negotiations.
We said for us to achieve the desired results in negotiation, we need to follow a structured approach which includes preparation, discussion, clarification of goals, negotiation towards a win-win outcome, agreement and implementation of a course of action. We then discussed preparation and discussion. Let us therefore continue from where we stopped last week.
(3) Clarifying goals
From the discussion, the goals, interests and viewpoints of both sides of the disagreement need to be clarified. It is helpful to list these factors in order of priority. Through this clarification, it is often possible to identify or establish some common ground. Clarification is an essential part of the negotiation process, without which misunderstandings are likely manifest and these may cause problems and impediments to reaching a mutually-beneficial outcome for the negotiating parties.
(4) Negotiation towards a win-win outcome
This stage focuses on what is termed a “win-win outcome” where both sides feel they have gained something positive through the process of negotiation and both sides feel their points of view have been taken into consideration. It is necessary to say that a win-win outcome is usually the best result expected. Although this may not always be possible when either or both parties are very rigid, naturally, it should be the ultimate goal. Suggestions of alternative strategies and compromises need to be considered at this point. Compromises are often positive alternatives which can often achieve greater benefits for all concerned compared to holding on to the original rigid positions.
It is instructive that agreement can be reached once understanding of both sides’ viewpoints and interests have been considered. It is necessary for everybody involved to keep an open mind in order to achieve an acceptable solution. Any agreement needs to be made perfectly clear so that both sides know what has been decided.
(6) Implementing a course of action
From the agreement, a course of action has to be implemented to carry through the decision. If the process of negotiation breaks down and agreement cannot be reached, then re-scheduling a further meeting becomes imperative. This forestalls a situation in which all parties will get entangled in heated discussions or arguments, which not only waste time but can also damage future relationships and bring the prospects of success of the negotiation to a premature close.
At the subsequent meeting(s), the stages of negotiation should be repeated. Any new idea or interest should be taken into account and the situation examined afresh. At this stage, it may also be helpful to look at other alternative solutions and/or bring in another person to mediate.
Also worthy of mention at this point is the informal negotiation. There are times when there is need to negotiate more in an informal way. At such times when there are contradictions of opinions, it may not be appropriate to go through the stages set out above in a formal sequential way. For instance, when medical doctors or university lecturers finally resolve to proceed on an indefinite industrial action, a lot of informal negotiations normally begin immediately from different stakeholders such as religious leaders, opinion leaders, etc., to quickly avert the industrial action and bring the situation under control in the interest on the teeming students, parents and the generality of Nigerians.
Even when informal negotiation is used, it is necessary to remember the key points in the stages of formal negotiation in a variety of informal situations. Attitude, knowledge and interpersonal skills constitute the key elements that will likely to influence the ultimate outcome of any negotiation in any given negotiation.
Attitude: All negotiations are strongly influenced by underlying attitude to the process itself. For example, attitude to the issues and personalities involved in the particular case or attitude linked to personal needs for recognition. So, it is necessary to be aware that negotiation is not an area for the realisation of individual achievements. Certain features of negotiation may influence a person’s behaviour, for example some people may become defensive.
Knowledge: The more knowledge you have of the issues in question, the greater your participation in the process of negotiation. In other words, good preparation is essential. Do your homework and gather as much information about the issues as you can. Also, the way issues are negotiated must be understood as negotiation will require different approaches in different situations.
Interpersonal skills: Interpersonal skills, also known as “people skills”, are the skills we use every day when we communicate and interact with other people. When employers are hiring, interpersonal skills are one of the top criteria used to evaluate candidates. This is because people with strong interpersonal skills are often more successful in both their professional and personal lives. These skills are therefore very important in negotiation situations to douse tension and bring people closer to one another, especially psychologically.
To be continued
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GOKE ILESANMI (FIIM, FIMC, CMC), CEO of Gokmar Communication Consulting, is an International Platinum Columnist, Professional Public Speaker, Career Mgt Coach and Certified Mgt Consultant. He is also a Book Reviewer, Biographer and Editorial Consultant. Tel: 08056030424; 08055068773; 08187499425