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Human Needs Theory in Negotiations

Introduction

It seems apparent that negotiations and bargaining are quite intersected and interdependent categories. One who aims to sell a product successfully is to take into account the most prominent findings and ideas from the mentioned areas. However, the number of negotiation theories is relatively high, and at times, it is difficult to figure out and apply an appropriate one when it comes to a bargain. Thus, it might be vital to conduct continuous research on the concepts that are provided by both scholarly dimensions and notable practices that resulted in profits and success. It might be supposed that the theory of human needs is among the most noticeable approaches that are commonly applied in negotiations and bargaining. In this paper, the essence of human needs theory within the scope of the process of negotiating and bargains, as well as its limitations, will be discussed.

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The Essence of Human Needs Theory

Among the most significant classifications of human needs is the one made by Maslow. He suggested that there are five main categories of these needs: basic physiological needs, security needs, social needs, respect needs, and the need for self-fulfillment. One of the highlights of Maslow’s theory implies that higher-order needs for respect and self-realization give the biggest impetus to motivation (Cherry, 2019). They increase when they are satisfied, while the needs of lower levels become less intense as they are met. Maslow believed that these needs are something like instincts and play a significant role in motivating behavior. Physiological needs, the need for security, and social needs were called the needs of the deficit – this means that they appear due to deprivation. Satisfying these needs is required in order to get rid of unpleasant sensations or prevent negative consequences. Maslow called the needs of the upper levels of the pyramid the needs of growth. They appear not because of the absence of anything, but because of the desire to grow as a person.

The above theory has served as a foundation for many scholarly investigations. Based on the concept of Maslow, John Burton developed his own conflict resolution version of basic human needs, significantly different from the original (Beitzel, 2019). However, these differences are out of focus of the discussion, and the critical point here is that Burton considered negotiations as a process of meeting needs. It is among the primary assumptions of his theory of human needs (Grace, 2015). Communication is to be effective – it should be the purposeful transmission of information, as well as the receipt and interpretation of it precisely in the form in which it was transmitted. With the subsequent use of information, its initial nature should not be distorted but should influence the formation and change of values, interests, and goals. Whether communication will be used in a cooperative or conflict relationship depends on its content and on the understanding of this content.

The Theory’s Applications in Negotiations and Bargaining

Needs and their satisfaction is the common denominator that people hope to come as a result of negotiations. If people do not have unmet needs, there would be no point in negotiations. This is also true in cases where the need is reduced to maintaining the status quo. At least two parties are needed for negotiations: the buyer and seller of real estate, the trade union and administration, the directors of the two companies, agreeing on the terms of the merger. Each of them cares about his or her interests to a great extent. Information on needs can be vital to developing effective negotiation techniques (Cheng & Shi, 2019). If one knows the theory of needs, he or she can accurately determine the interests of the parties. Moreover, this theory draws attention to the benefits and situational models that encourage the opposite side to look for alternative methods to make adjustments to their actions and counteractions.

As already mentioned, there is a specific hierarchy, that is, a sequence of interests in descending order of importance. The theory of needs makes it possible to evaluate the effectiveness of any negotiation action correctly and, at the same time, provides a large selection of options (Spangle & Isenhart, 2003). If one knows the relative weight of each need, it is easier to choose the appropriate ways to meet it. The methodology that prioritizes interests is the most effective; the more urgent the need, the more effective will be its use in negotiations. The needs sometimes – and even often – exist in an unconscious form. Caring for the satisfaction of their needs, people can act under the influence of emotions, and not the arguments of reason. The theory of needs gives us a structure to help streamline and determine the relative value of interests and possible actions aimed at satisfying them.

According to the theory, everything a person does is motivated by a desire to satisfy one or another of his or her needs. The understanding of this principle can help to develop a bargaining strategy; the example might be as follows. One has just created the most prominent product in the world. It is a revolutionary offer that will help other companies to reduce production costs by two times. The seller reaches out to potential customers with the following advertising message: The product automates production systems with a new processor and turbocharging. It might be assumed that buyers will not be attracted by such a promotion as no needs or interests that may become satisfied are stated. This seller can have the best product in a market, but if he or she does not convince clients that they need it, there will be no notable success.

When a person thinks about a purchase, first of all, he or she thinks about what this purchase will provide, but not about how it is arranged or how it works. Therefore, the first message that the buyer should hear is to contain information about the benefits that the client will acquire if he or she purchases a product. If the seller is able to identify the advantages of the product or service clearly, then the profits are possible indeed.

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Limitations of the Theory

It seems reasonable to note that although the described advantages of the theory, the latter also has a number of limitations. The most apparent one might be formulated as follows: it is not absolutely clear whether all humans have the same hierarch of human needs or not. It means that if one decides to apply the theory to the process of negotiations, he or she will perceive the interests of the other party through the prism of subjectivity (Rubenstein, 2001). It might result in misunderstanding, as well as dissatisfying results of the bargain. Hence, in order to avoid such a mistake, it is essential to learn and explore the hierarchy of interests of the opponent. It might lead to an in-depth understanding of the situation and the rational way to apply the theory.

The following limitation is a direct consequence of the one above. In the case of facing the conflict behavior of the interlocutor, according to the theory, it is essential to understand that this behavior is provoked by an unmet need. In order to stop the alienation of communicators, this need must be satisfied. This understanding can be approached through simple communication – asking questions, sincere interest in answers, empathy and active listening, and other techniques of constructive conversation. The crucial disadvantage here is that the described approach might take too much time with the loss of the object of negotiations. Moreover, the larger the conflict, the more needs can be involved (Azam & Rehman, 2018). Thus, the more thorough the analysis of these needs should be. And if one cannot do it on his or her own, it is vital to turn to an independent person, or mediator, for help. Nevertheless, it seems that the disadvantages are not so critical to reject the benefits of the theory in practice.

Conclusion

To conclude, the human needs theory of Burton is founded on the hierarchy of Maslow and might serve as a great background for constructive negotiations and bargains. The original idea of the concept is that in order to gain maximum benefits from negotiating, it is essential to take into account the interests of the interlocutor. Everyone pursues his or her needs during negotiations; hence, the faster these needs are identified and met, the more productive outcomes might take place. However, several limitations of the theory also occur; first, it is difficult to understand the needs of the other party at times as they are not entirely unified. Second, identifying these needs might be quite a time-consuming process.

References

  1. Azam, A. & Rehman, S. (2018). Assessing human needs theory: An approach to conflict resolution. The Nucleus, 55(3), 128–132.
  2. Beitzel, T. (2019) Puzzles, problems and provention: Burton and beyond. International Journal of Peace Studies, 24(1).
  3. Cheng, Q. & Shi, Y. (2019). The promoting effects of psychology in business negotiation. Journal of Language Teaching and Research, 10(4), 832–837.
  4. Rubenstein, R. (2001). Basic human needs: The next steps in theory development. International Journal of Piece Studies, 6(1). Web.
  5. Spangle, M. & Isenhart, M. (2003). Negotiation: Communication for diverse settings. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications

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