Communication in Negotiation: Process and Barriers

Communication is an integral part of everyday life. Even more, communication and ability to think is a phenomenon that makes the humankind unique. Persuasive and efficient communication guarantees a success in all types of negotiations. The capacity of making other people behave and act in a particular way is a unique skill necessary for accomplishments of goals. There is a tendency among employers to give preference to candidates who have advanced communicative skills. One should be aware of the possible barriers, the role of listening and nonverbal signs as well as of the ways all these factors influence the process of interaction to become an excellent negotiator.

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Demarr and De Janasz (2011) define communication as an activity of encoding and decoding of different messages, both of verbal and nonverbal nature. People start exchanging information since birth. When an infant cries, he or she shares a signal of hunger, discomfort, or something else. Communication belongs to the oldest means of the intercourse. It has changed drastically with the inventions of telephones, e-mails, and the Internet in general. The process of sharing information became more flexible in any environments. The developing of communicating skills magnifies one’s chance to become a competent negotiator. Barker (2013) investigated the human intercourse precisely. He points out the fact that the word “communication” comes from Latin “communis” — “shared” or “common”. Baker concludes that communication presupposes the achievement of the mutual understanding. The author emphasizes the importance of listening and proper comprehending of the message to create a proficient transmission.

Many barriers can impede an adequate conversation. The negotiation includes at least two participants. The sender is the person who shares the message with a receiver. Thus, there are obstacles in communication concerning the sender. The sender formulates the statements taking into account his or her knowledge, feelings, or experience. Nevertheless, the sender’s understanding of the message may not coincide with receiver’s apprehension. Then, the negotiator chooses the medium of communication. It can be a call, an electronic letter, or a face-to-face contact. The selected method can hinder or improve the transmission of the information. For instance, shy people feel at ease while communicating via the Internet as far as they have the opportunity to think over all answers and react passably. Virtual methods of communication give them more chances to express themselves and prove their rightness.

Some barriers pertain to the receiver. A successful negotiator knows that too much information deters the comprehension. Thus, a sender should be able to choose and alter the particular message for the receiver to acquire it with maximum efficiency. One more impediment concerns the emotional and psychological stage of the decoder. The feeling of strong emotions may prevent an effective obtaining. For example, a woman who has just quarreled with a husband may face problems with an adequate obtaining and memorizing of the information. Environmental barriers include noise and other factors. Bad Internet connection, poor acoustics, or even the usage of specified vocabulary (as slang) belong to this group (Demarr & De Janasz, 2011).

Some researchers prefer other variants of the classification of barriers. For instance, Lunenburg (2010) divides all barriers into four groups. The obstacles to communication include encoding and decoding of the message, the selected method, and feedback. Physical barriers comprise the second group, which stands for various problems with equipment and environmental noise. Semantic barriers concern differences in words’ meaning and the usage of the specifically colored lexicon. The last group contains psychological barriers such as emotional state, culture, traditions, sympathy, or personal experience.

Inexperienced negotiators underestimate the role of listening in the communication process. A good listener has an ability to sense (to hear the words and notice nonverbal signals), to process and evaluate (to comprehend and memorize information), and to respond (to send signals showing the attention). One should differentiate between hearing and listening. The first presupposes unintentional perception of the information while the latter deals with deliberate and attentive comprehension. According to Demarr and De Janasz (2011), there are three types of listening. The passive type of listening occurs when the receiver just hears and does not think over the message. When the listener wants to learn something new, the attentive listening will appear. Active listening is the most demanding type. It contains the readiness to interpret, evaluate, and give feedback to the message. Active listening is typical for negotiations where individuals try to prove the rightness of their thoughts and achieve a mutual agreement.

One should have advanced listening skills to become a respectable negotiator. There are several helpful hints that can assist. First, a good listener concentrates on the message and stop doing any other things. Then, he or she will ask questions if a confusion occurs. A listener employs all senses to evaluate the message and is aware of the nonverbal signs. One should not interrupt and draw a hasty conclusion. A significant point concerns the ability to recognize the speaker’s emotions and be sympathetic. Butterfield (2012) introduces the idea that a listener should be an unbiased and broad-minded person who respects the opinions of others.

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The nonverbal communication is an essential part of the excellent negotiations. Scientists have proved the fact that people receive less than 10% of information by listening only to the words. Speakers and listeners subconsciously analyze the body language and pitch of the voice to create a full picture of the message. An intentional paying attention to these details gives one a substantial preference in negotiations. Demarr and De Janasz (2011) provide various examples of nonverbal messages and their interpretations. For example, an eye rolling is a typical signal for the disagreement. One should not employ it in negotiations as far as it symbolizes the lack of respect and professionalism.

The posture is one more nonverbal sign. Crossing of the arms over the chest usually means disapproval. However, there are signs with controversial meanings. For instance, the gesture for OK has not only the meaning of support or that everything is alright. In France, people use the OK gesture to decline a proposal. A negotiator should always remember that nonverbal signals might have many meanings. If one notices a contradiction between words and behavior and is not sure about it, it is better to clarify everything rather than make a wrong judgment.

Gamble and Gamble (2014) define particular groups of nonverbal communication and describe their functions. The first type is paralinguistics. It studies the patterns of the intonation. Kinesics deals with body language (postures, expressions of the face, and gestures). Haptics investigate the role of touching. Proxemics examines the way distance influence the communication process. Chronemics analyzes the timing one uses while making a speech or during the negotiations. It is also important to know the functions of nonverbal cues. The first one is contradicting or a double message.

It concerns the situation when the words of the speaker do not refer to his or her nonverbal expressions. Imagine a man with a red face with anger, but who screams that he is fine. The next function deals with the magnifying of the message. For example, the intentional change of the tone of the voice can emphasize the most important parts of the information. The same is when one says menace and simultaneously makes threats with a fist. The nonverbal cues can control the conversation. Thus, the employment of nods, smiles, and other signs of approval shows the speaker that he or she should proceed in the same manner. The next function is reinforcement. Imagine a woman who is looking for a number in a mobile phone and is saying, “I am going to tell him all the truth right now”. Thus, the holding of the phone strengthens her intention to call.

The last function refers to the replacement of words. Though it is not advisable to conduct it in negotiations, one should know it. Sometimes people use gestures instead of words. The rolling of eyes without saying a word often means disagreement or disapproval and the shrug of shoulders has the meaning of uncertainty. Studying the body language can be a time-consuming task, but it is worth the time spent.

Virtual negotiations are becoming more and more popular in modern society. Most people have access to the Internet that is a great privilege. Virtual negotiations have both advantages and disadvantages. The communication via virtual channels is not expensive, and that is the primary benefit. It is especially useful for companies who have employees throughout the world. The virtual communication can provoke a hostile performance among participants due to the possible anonymity. However, it is not typical for virtual teams. It is of great significance to establish trustful relations between negotiators, but it is not always possible to achieve because of the Internet-mediated communication.

Even more, it is easier to hide a particular information via Internet. According Demarr and De Janasz (2011), negotiators should conducts at least one meeting via video conference to accomplish a collaboration and confidence. One more advantage of virtual negotiation is the ability to search for necessary information and avoid uncomfortable silence. Nonverbal signs become impossible to recognize as well. It is important to remember that a receiver of the message is a human. One should behave and write accordingly. There are several rules that assist in managing of successful virtual negotiations. It is advisable to have at least one real life contact to establish a feeling of trust. Negotiators should choose the medium for communication depending on their goals. One should express thoughts and ideas without leaving some information unclear. It is important to control one’s behavior and do not let impolite treatment happen.

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Communication is an essential part of all human activities. Communication in negotiation requires understanding the way information transmits. A successful negotiator knows the nature of the communication process, all possible barriers as well as the importance of active listening, nonverbal cues, and the observance of ethical rules in virtual negotiations.


Barker, A. (2013). Improve Your Communication Skills. London, United Kingdom: Kogan Page Publishers. Web.

Butterfield, J. (2012). Verbal Communication: Illustrated Course Guides. Boston, USA: Cengage Learning. Web.

Demarr, B., & De Janasz, S. (2011). Negotiation and Dispute Resolution. New Jersey, USA: Prentice Hall. Web.

Gamble, T., & Gamble, M. (2014). Interpersonal Communication. Washington DC, USA: Sage Publications, Inc. Web.

Lunenburg, F. (2010). Communication: the Process, Barriers, and Improving Effectiveness. Schooling, 8(1), 1-11. Web.

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