By Goke Ilesanmi
Last week, we stressed the need for clarifying goals. We explained that from the discussion, the goals, interests and viewpoints of both sides in a disagreement need to be clarified. We said it is helpful to list these factors in order of priority because through clarification, it is often possible to identify or establish some common ground.
We also discussed negotiation towards a win-win outcome. We said 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. Another important point we examined is agreement. We explained that agreement can be reached once understanding of both sides’ viewpoints and interests have been considered. We said it is necessary for everybody involved to keep an open mind in order to achieve an acceptable solution.
On implementing a course of action, we said from the agreement, a course of action has to be implemented to carry through the decision. We explained that if the process of negotiation breaks down and agreement cannot be reached, then re-scheduling a further meeting becomes imperative. We added that 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.
We also examined the concept of informal negotiation. We said there are times when there is need to negotiate more in an informal way. We explained that 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.
We said even when informal negotiation method is employed, it is necessary to remember the key points in the stages of formal negotiation in a variety of informal situations. We explained that attitude, knowledge and interpersonal skills constitute the key elements that will likely influence the ultimate outcome of any negotiation in any given negotiation.
Harvard Negotiation Project
There is no disputing the fact that most people are not natural or born negotiators. But the good news is that research consistently shows that most people can significantly improve on their negotiation skills through training/education, preparation and practice. For such people, Harvard Negotiation Project seems to have come to the rescue. Members of the Harvard Negotiation Project have developed a framework to help people prepare more effectively for negotiation. The project has what is called “Seven Elements framework”, which describes the essential tools needed to identify our goals, prepare effectively to minimise surprises and take advantage of opportunities as they arise in negotiation.
Bruce Patton has also discussed these elements contained in the framework of the Harvard Negotiation Project in his book “The Handbook of Dispute Resolution”.
At this point, let us X-ray these critical elements:
(1) Interests: Interests constitute the first of the elements of effective preparation for negotiation. Interests are “the fundamental drivers of negotiation,” according to Patton. Often hidden and unspoken, our interests nonetheless guide what we do and say. Experienced negotiators probe their counterparts’ stated positions to better understand their underlying interests.
(2) Legitimacy: Another element is legitimacy. The quest for a legitimate or fair deal drives many of our decisions in negotiations. If you feel the other party is taking advantage of you, you are likely to reject their offer. To succeed in negotiation, we need to put forward proposals that others will view as acceptable, legitimate and fair.
(3) Relationships: These constitute another critical element and are similar to interpersonal skills earlier discussed. Whether you have an ongoing connection with a counterpart or you do not think you will ever see him or her again, you need to effectively manage your relationship as your negotiation unfolds. Relationship dynamics become all the more important when you have an ongoing connection: future business, your reputation and your relationships with others may hang in the balance. You can strengthen the relationship by taking time to build rapport and maintaining your own high ethical standards throughout the negotiation process.
(4) Alternatives and Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA). Even as we take part in negotiations, we are aware of our alternatives away from the table—what we will do if the current deal does not work out well. Negotiation preparation should include an analysis of your best alternative to a negotiated agreement. For example, an admission-seeker in a university may determine that he or she will start applying to polytechnics or elsewhere if the admission “negotiation” process fails eventually.
(5) Options. In negotiations, options refer to any available choice parties may consider in satisfying their interests, including conditions, contingencies and trades. Because options tend to capitalise on parties’ similarities and differences, they can create value in negotiation and improve parties’ satisfaction, according to Patton.
(6) Commitments. In negotiations, a commitment can be defined as an agreement, demand, offer or promise made by one or more parties. A commitment can range from an agreement to meet at a particular time and place to a formal proposal to a signed contract.
(7) Communication. Whether you are negotiating online, via phone or in person, you will take part in a communication process with the other party or parties. The success of your negotiation can hinge on your communication choices, such as whether you threaten or acquiesce, brainstorm jointly or make firm demands, make silent assumptions about interests or ask questions to probe them more deeply. Armed with a better understanding of these building blocks of negotiation, you are positioned to learn more about how to prepare to create and claim value in negotiations, manage fairness concerns and reach the best deal possible—both for you and for your counterpart.
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