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Friday, September 23, 2011

Business Negotiations

Every time we engage in conversation with another individual we are generally negotiating a view, discussion or action. Everyone has different filters from which they perceive the world or their surroundings. These filters are developed throughout one's life as they grow from a child to an adult. Some of the main influences that can develop one's filters are parents, friends, family, social environment, religion, school and experience. As these filters are molded every individual brings a different view point to a negotiation or business discussion. Understanding the angle or view of an individual with whom you are negotiating is key to laying the foundation to work towards a viable solution.

One of the more widely known methods of understanding human negotiation psychology is the Thomas-Kilman Conflict Mode Instrument, also known as the (TKI). This model asserts that an individual's behavior falls along two basic dimensions: assertiveness - the extent to which the individual attempts to satisfy his or her own concerns and cooperativeness - the extent to which the individual attempts to satisfy the other's person's concerns. This instrument then places an individual into five different style methods when it comes to dealing with conflict.

The first negotiation style is competing.

Competing is an assertive and uncooperative, power-oriented style. Most individuals that fall into this category tend to pursue their own interests at the expense of other's using whatever methods they can to win the negotiation. The next style is collaborating. Collaborating is both assertive and cooperative. When collaborating, an individual attempts to work with other individuals to find a solution that fully satisfies the concerns of both. It involves digging into an issue to identify the underlying concerns of the two individuals to find an alternative that meets both sets of concerns. Collaborating between two individuals can take the form of exploring a disagreement to learn from each other's insights, resolving some condition that would otherwise have them competing for resources, or confronting and trying to find a creative solution to their conflict.

The next style is compromising.

Compromising is generally right in the middle of the assertiveness and cooperativeness dimensions. When compromising, parties look to seek a mutually acceptable solution that can benefit all parties involved. Compromising might mean splitting the difference, exchanging concessions, or seeking a common ground position. However, compromising can also mean that both parties are giving up something to meet on the middle ground and this is not always a positive.

Another type of style is avoiding.

Avoiding is unassertive and uncooperative. When avoiding, an individual does not immediately pursue his or her own concerns or those of the other person. The individual is generally side-stepping the true conflict at hand. They generally find ways to withdraw or postpone an issue to avoid a threatening or intense situation.

The last style of the five mentioned in TKI model is accommodating.

The accommodating style is generally unassertive and cooperative. Generally, an individual that has an accommodating style will neglect his or her own concerns to satisfy the concerns of others. An accommodating style will just accept the view or stance of others and does not try too hard to push their own objectives onto others.

Once an individual identifies what method of negotiation they often fall into, then they can begin to understand what some of their strengths and weaknesses may be during a negotiation. All the different styles or methods have different strengths and weaknesses associated with them. Individuals who participate in sales or internet marketing consulting have to learn to negotiate often and with many different personality types.

Competing can be valuable at times when a decisive action is needed and that individual is not afraid to take control of the situation and make an immediate decision. However, some of the negatives of this style are that a lot of the competing individuals always fight for influence and respect. They may not even have the best solution or not know the answer but often push their opinion on others and act more confident that they feel. This style or method can also cause those around you to inquire less about information or opinions and everyone will be less likely to learn from the negotiation or conflicts.

Collaborating seems to be one of the more effective negotiation methods. The main strength of the collaborative style is that they generally find integrative solutions and adhere to the concerns of both parties because they understand that some items may be too important to compromise. This style can also be very good at merging insights from a variety of people with very different perspectives on an issue or problem. This method can also be viewed as a style that still is able to accomplish all their objectives without rolling over the other parties involved. They are able to gain commitment by incorporating everyone's concerns into a consensual decision.

The weaknesses in this style are fairly limited. However, every negotiation or conflict is different so there will always be times when one method will be better suited for that negotiation. The weakness in always collaborating during a negotiation is that it can take a lot of time and effort. There may be situations where you do not have the luxury of time and effort. Some negotiations don't require advanced solutions or the time it can take to understand the ultimate goals and viewpoint of every individual involved in the negotiation.

Everyone has heard the old saying that it is always best to compromise. However, when truly analyzing this method more in depth that may not always be the case. In a compromise all parties involved are giving up something to help the other achieve their goal. Even in a compromise where the results are considered to be Pareto optimal, individuals would still have to give up some of their ultimate goal to have all the others achieve the optimal position for all parties involved. This style can also lead some to unintended costly compromises of principles, values, long-term objectives, or company welfare. The main benefit of this style as many are aware is that it often satisfies the needs of all parties involved in the negotiation. It can also be a good way to achieve a quick resolution to a complex issue.

Avoiding generally has more of a negative connotation to it than some of the other negotiation styles. However, there can be at times, some advantages to the avoidance method of conflict. This can be a viable way to solve a conflict or negotiation if the potential costs of confronting a conflict outweigh the benefits of its resolution. It can also be used if an issue is not important enough to address and time will be wasted if the negotiation about the issue even begins to ensue.

Last but not least in the methods of negotiating is accommodating. Accommodating can often help a negotiation in the future because if one accommodates to others' needs initially they may be viewed very favorable right away by the others involved. Accommodators are also good at reading situations and can realize when they are wrong. They often can allow better positions or decisions to be considered, able to learn from others and demonstrate that they are caring and reasonable to others needs. However, if one is always accommodating then they may be sacrificing many of their beliefs or ultimate goals just to appease the other parties involved.

After one begins to understand the method or style he or she may fall into then it is time to understand the some of the steps needed to reach an agreement. The first step is to understand everyone's goals or objectives. After one is able to understand the other parties motives than they can begin to understand the needs of each individual and starting negotiating towards a common ground. A key in beginning to uncover an individual's needs and form a common ground is to start to ask some open ended questions.

After gaining a strong understanding of the other parties needs then we can begin to understand how closely their needs fall in line with our objectives. In a lot of situations you can start by gaining agreement on a collaborative effort to solve the problem and fulfilling each party's needs. Then once trust has been established and the other party understands that you are not only searching to obtain your own objectives but also helping them to reach theirs it will become easier to negotiate more of the greater details.

The next step after understanding the other party's needs and working towards a common ground is to start surveying the options available to you. An option can be a possible agreement or part of an agreement that can satisfy either party's objectives. By beginning to explore different options both parties will be able to see different solutions to the problem coming to the table. When you create different options you are create value to the negotiation and building blocks to move the negotiation further down the continuum.

Most of the best negotiations are those in which a number of options have been explored. The first resolution to a conflict is not always accepted and not necessarily the best option for all parties involved. The more options that are generated, the greater the chance that one of them will mutually and effectively satisfy the differing needs of all parties involved. Often, by understanding each other's needs, one can begin to formulate some possible ways to execute a strategy that better solutions and give you some more creative bargaining power.

The key behind developing options in a negotiation is to take organized approach at understanding each parties needs and creating a range of options that can fulfill most of them. To do this one must always come to a negotiation with an open mind. If you do not try to understand the other individual's viewpoints then you will never be effectively working towards a strategy that will fulfill both of your goals. The more options you begin to create, the more room or leverage you will have in that negotiation. To create these options you have to continually remind yourself of the needs and common grounds of the other party and also remember to take into account differences in perception or the filters that were mentioned in the beginning of this paper.

The next items to understand in creating options are timing and risk. Some individuals enjoy the rush of risk and have to make tough decisions in a limited amount of time while others cannot stand the idea of it. Everyone has a different tolerance for risk and they are also different on the speed in which they operate, take action and make decisions. When dealing with any of these scenarios in a negotiation the best action is to try and accommodate the timing involved in the decisions that have to be made.

According to Roger Fisher and Danny Ertel, authors of Getting Ready to Negotiate, when people have several of something, they value the last one somewhat less than those that came before. Fisher and Ertel also state that differences in the marginal value to each party, of some of the goods under negotiation, can create opportunities to improve the overall value they each receive. There is no guarantee that these value creating trade-offs will work in every negotiation. However, if one strives to create good options, prepare in advance, and carefully consider opportunities that create value, then possibilities will become available.

As described by William Ury in his book, Getting Past No, an independent standard is a measuring stick that allows us to decide what a fair solution is. Some common standards include: market value, fair and equal treatment, laws, precedents that have been established in the past. Standards can be utilized when one begins to work or negotiate with a new customer. By establishing certain standards it can help to form the common ground in the negotiation that was mentioned earlier in the paper. Without setting standards the negotiation can have no boundaries and will only make it more difficult to come to a viable solution.

Negotiations always differ in complexity and content. Understanding the different style or methods used by different individuals will help to identify their needs and wants. After understanding the needs and wants it is then time to form the common ground. Once common ground is established in the negotiation then it is time to present the options that will help all parties involved achieve their most viable solutions. Keeping an open mind and always trying to understand the argument from the other individuals' viewpoint will always help achieve the main objectives in a negotiation. A good quote by John Lubbock encompasses a lot about negotiations, "what we see depends mainly on what we look for." By keeping an open mind during any negotiation one may be able to find new possibilities that he or she did not even know existed.


Works Cited:

Roger Fisher and Danny Ertel. Getting Ready to Negotiate. Penguin Books. 1995.
K. Thomas and R. Killman, The Conflict Mode Instrument. (Tuxedo Park, NY: XICOM, 1974). Negotiation 6th Edition. Roy J Lewicki, David M. Saunders, Bruce Barry.
Ury, William. Getting past No. Bantam Books. 1993.

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