Negotiation, according to Tubbs and Moss (2006) is a “set of methods for resolving conflicts between and among people”. They also quote Walker and Harris (1995) who define negotiation as “the process of resolving differences through mutually acceptable trade-offs”.
To define conflict, Tubbs and Moss choose a definition by Wilmot and Hocker (1998): “an expressed struggle between at least two interdependent parties who perceive incompatible goals, scarce resources, and interference from others in achieving their goals”. Conflict therefore does not only apply to the situations, sometimes extreme, to which it is commonly applied, such as child-parent or spousal difficulties, or to war or civil disruption. It also applies to buyer-seller situations, assigning resources to a project at work, or asking the boss for a pay rise – situations where the participants recognise that they have differences to resolve, but do not always consider themselves to be involved in conflict.
Mayer (2000) believes that a conflict is only resolved when the parties believe the conflict has ended, no longer feel in conflict, stop using conflict behaviour and implement new behaviours. Such resolution can happen on many different levels – some people focus on reaching a settlement, others on transforming the conflicted parties, and others perhaps on achieving social justice.
Whatever level the resolution is on, it can only be reached through effective communication - caring about what the other has to say, focusing on understanding, tolerance, and connecting through good feedback.
Negotiation is then a process of ‘good communication’ that leads to a resolution of conflict, and if we use Wilmot and Hocker’s definition of ‘conflict’, has a role to play in numerous everyday situations.
Models of Negotiation
According to Walker and Harris, any negotiation will follow a predictable path with six steps that they define as:
1.Analysing the negotiation situation
2.Planning for the upcoming negotiation
3.Organizing – choose the negotiators and agreeing the game plan 4.Gaining and Maintaining control
5.Closing the negotiation
6.Continuous improvement – reviewing how it went and applying the lesson next time
These steps are sometimes expanded or refined for particular types of negotiation. For example, Scacchitti and Guertin (2005) offer the following as the steps involved in negotiating with a supplier:
So negotiation is a process and it can take place within a number of contexts – for example industry norms (as in this example the conditioning of the supplier), organizational requirements, and cultural variables. This is why the planning stages of a negotiation (in the bold dotted box above) are so vital. Each of the context variables affects the way in which the plans will be developed and executed.
Styles of Negotiation
Whether negotiations are taking place between individuals or groups, each will bring to the table a certain approach, orientation or style, and the two most common styles are cooperative and competitive.
Morton Deutsch (1973) says “In a cooperative situation the goals are so linked that everybody ‘sinks or swims’ together, while in the competitive situation if one swims, the other must sink.” In other words, the cooperative approach leads to win-win resolutions. Win-win outcomes occur when each side of a dispute feels they have won. Since both sides benefit from such a scenario, any resolutions to the conflict are likely to be accepted voluntarily (Burgess and Burgess, 1997)
This form of outcome is often quoted as the most desirable as the parties work in cooperation, developing a relationship and fostering trust, and so often arriving at mutually beneficial outcomes. However, it assumes that a solution can be found that will satisfy both parties. When there is a limited resource...