In this semester, negotiation skills were among the paramount topics covered. From the knowledge acquired during the semester, negotiation is a process aimed at settling differences by reaching an agreement. Negotiation skills are paramount especially in business transactions where bargaining is a common phenomenon. In addition, various professions such as lawyers use negotiation skills when settling disputes outside the court. Negotiation skills are also used in everyday life where people have similar interests for limited resources. In such cases, negotiation skills help in attaining a win-win situation for both parties.
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At the beginning of the semester, most of the student’s negotiation skills were indigent. However, with the coverage of the literature on negotiation skills by Fisher, Ury and Patton (2011), many students have significantly improved. This is evident by the little money paid on items when making purchases, unlike the olden days where students spent a lot of money due to inability to negotiate. In addition to that, at the beginning of the semester, I had the ability to comprehend and estimate the value of products and possible outcomes but lacked the skills to negotiate.
The principles learned in the class were: first, separate the conflicting parties from the problem. Second, be keen to focus on the interest at hand rather than one’s position. Third, develop several options on which to base the agreement. Lastly, consider “basing an agreement on an objective criterion” (Fisher et al., 2011).
The process of negotiation starts with the analysis of the problem of the parties involved and determining the available options. According to Fisher et al. (2011), the second stage entails responding to the problem “while the last stage is a discussion of the problem to find a solution” (Fisher et al., 2011).
Separating People and the Problem
The first principle learned on negotiation skills was separating people and the problem at hand. Many parties involved become personally attached to the problem and, therefore, perceive responses to the problems as attacks directed to them. Separating the parties from the problem prevents emotional reasoning and helps in viewing the problem from a wider perspective. With this regard, three types of problems arising during negotiations were established. Firstly, the parties involved have different perceptions of the problem. It is, therefore, important for parties to try and understand each other’s viewpoint. Proposals should come from both sides in order to reach an agreement supported by both parties.
The second problem witnessed is emotions. Many react with anger or fear whenever they think their interests are at stake. Keen parties have abilities to acknowledge emotions even when they are not portrayed. Dismissing peoples’ feelings only heightens the tension. Fisher et al. (2011) consider the use of apologies and other gestures as the remedy for this. The third problem is communication. Misunderstandings between parties often occur even when the parties are not involved in active talking. The problem is solved by employing active listening. The controller of the process, the speaker, should direct the speech towards the parties. In addition, the parties should desist from attacking each other and instead talk about the problem.
Focus on Interests
Safe and successful agreements are achieved when parties focus on their interests instead of their positions. However, when solving disputes, the decisions that are based on positions only functions to worsen the situation. A better solution is obtained when the problem is defined in terms of interests. In order to focus on interests, it is paramount that the reasons for holding the positions be determined. It is also important for the negotiator to reveal the common interests when the parties have different interests.
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When generating options, four obstacles are commonly encountered: first, parties conclude prematurely and thus do not analyze the options available. Second, the parties’ intention might be to settle on one solution. Also, some parties enter the negotiation process with a win-lose mentality. Lastly, a party can dictate the other side to develop a solution to the issue at hand. In order to overcome these problems, it is important to bring the parties together and brainstorm all the possible solutions (Fisher et al., 2011). Fisher et al. (2011) believe that concentrating on the common interests and embracing a win-win mentality would ensure a smooth negotiation process.
Moreover, the use of threats is discouraged since it is a major stumbling block to reaching an agreement.
Use Objective Criteria
An objective criterion is a useful method in negotiation process especially where interests are opposed directly. Usually, there are options that can be sued to develop objective criteria. The rules adopted should be acceptable to both parties, practical and legitimate. In addition, Fisher et al. (2011) found that legal publications and other scientific findings could be used to develop the objective criteria. However, it is important to consider the other party’s reasoning in order to support one’s position. It is also advisable to have an open mind during the entire process in order to be reasonable and have the willingness to revisit their positions. It is also important for the mediator to be resolute so as to survive the pressures from the parties.
Although there are no methods of negotiation that can solve power disputes, there are ways that can be used to protect the vulnerable party against an unfair treatment. In most cases, the negotiators establish a bottom line that is the least acceptable offer. Further, the weaker parties should reject proposals that create worse conditions than those before negotiations. It is important for the weak party to identify opportunities and develop them to their benefit. Developing the best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA), enables a party to determine the minimum acceptable offer.
It is common that parties refuse to give up their positions and make personal attacks in order to maximize their benefits. Also, it is a common phenomenon that some parties use dirty tricks such as leaking information to the media. To address the issues, parties should explicitly raise the occurrence during the negotiation process. It is also wise to seek clarification on the facts presented by the other side in order to avoid deception.
Another dirty trick used is by providing a stressful environment. In such cases, the other party suggests a more comfortable environment. In a “situation where a party refuses to move from their position, a third party can be brought in to conduct interviews, and establish the underlying issues” (Fisher et al., 2011). Comments from the interviews are then developed, and a proposal is made eventually. If the proposal is not acceptable to the parties, interviews are repeated, comments made, and a proposal is presented. The process is repeated until an agreement is reached.
The above processes are very helpful in daily activities. The skills will help in solving conflicts that occur every day. In addition, the skills will be useful in future activities such as solving problems in business.
Fisher, R., Ury, W., & Patton, B. (2011). Getting to yes: Negotiating agreement without giving in. New York, NY: Penguin.