Let’s face it, negotiating has never been easy to do and with the arrival of the Covid-19 virus, it just suddenly became a lot harder. These days nobody really wants to sit in a closed room for a long time with a group of people who may or may not have been practicing safe social distancing. However, life must go on and so negotiations do continue. Many of our negotiations have now moved online. Today’s tools allow this to happen relatively smoothly. However, even online disputes do pop up. When they do, negotiators need to know how to deal with them.
Dealing With Online Disputes
Negotiators are increasingly using their negotiation styles and negotiating techniques to make deals and resolve disputes online due to the ongoing pandemic. But a trend toward online dispute resolution (ODR) has been in the making since before we all began to quarantine. What negotiators need are experts to help them understand how technology can help us effectively and efficiently resolve disputes.
The good news is that online dispute resolution (ODR) has “grown by leaps and bounds” in recent years. Private companies, courts, and individuals all rely on ODR to resolve many millions of disputes per year. Negotiators are not alone in trying to deal with this issue. These days advanced negotiation techniques included in ODR include the use of artificial intelligence (AI) agents—computer programs that can negotiate and help resolve disputes. These AI agents can aid in mediating disputes between two or more humans, negotiate on behalf of a human negotiator, or negotiate with each other.
Online collaborative workspaces have been created where two parties can come together to resolve their dispute. In these workspaces, an AI agent asks each party questions about their interests and preferences, then works to facilitate an efficient agreement. For example, suppose that Party A tells the AI agent privately that it would like to settle a claim with Party B for $600 but would settle for $400. The agent then might ask Party B if they would be willing to pay $600. Party B says it is will pay no more than $450. The agent can then propose a settlement of $450, a figure acceptable to both parties. The process eliminates haggling and should generate efficient outcomes. This can all be done online.
Techniques For Resolving Online Disputes
Online disputes are often marked by power imbalances between negotiators. A fundamental question is if one party is much more powerful, how does the AI agent manage questions of injustice and structural bias, and conduct an ethical negotiation? Technology can be used to reduce injustice and structural bias or to exacerbate them – we need to be careful. We have to take a step back and take a look at the dynamics of these disputes to make sure we don’t automate inequality. The good news is that in many ODR formats, when we think systemically about those imbalances, we can design to overcome them.
Trust can be an obstacle to the adoption of ODR. There are three main trust concerns that negotiators are likely to have about AI agents:
The presence of ability-based trust: Does the AI agent have the skill to help me with this problem, or should I seek help from a human being? Something called “Algorithmic aversion” describes the common tendency to distrust information provided by an algorithm. At the same time, negotiators may be more willing to trust an AI agent to handle sensitive issues, such as divorce, debt, or housing issues.
Benevolence-based trust: Do I think this agent is trying to help me or is working against me? Negotiators may fear that the AI agent will use the information they provide against them, especially if the ODR platform is run by the other side.
Integrity-based trust: Will the AI agent keep its promises or defect on me? When divulging our preferences to the other side, we might fear we can’t trust the algorithm to accurately determine what we prefer.
Using platforms created and managed by third parties—rather than by one of the parties themselves, such as a corporation—can help build trust in ODR systems. As the field advances, ODR designers will need to draw on advanced negotiation techniques to build useful, effective, and unbiased tools that win users’ trust.
What All Of This Means For You
There is no question that our world has changed. The arrival of the Covid-19 virus has brought a halt to many of our face-to-face negotiations and has caused us to move our negotiations online. As is the case with all negotiations, even during these online negotiations, disputes can arise. When this happens new AI tools can step in and help us to resolve the issues that we are dealing with.
In order to deal with the disputes that come up when we are negotiating online, online dispute resolution (ODR) has been developed. Today’s ODR solutions include the use of artificial intelligence (AI) agents. Online collaborative workspaces have been created where two parties can come together to resolve their dispute using AI agents. AI tools have to help to balance the power in a principled negotiation. Trust is a key factor when ODR tools are being used. “Algorithmic aversion” describes the common tendency to distrust information provided by an algorithm. Using platforms created and managed by third parties can help build trust in ODR systems.
We are living in a different world. This new world has many of the things that we had in our old world such as the disputes that come up during a negotiation. The good news is that modern tools are becoming available to help us navigate the new world. If we can take the time and understand how these new tools work and how we can apply them to our negotiations, then we’ll have a better chance of reaching the deals that we want. Learn to deal with the way that things are and you’ll become a successful modern negotiator.
– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Negotiating Skills™
Question For You: Do you think that it is necessary to get the other side’s agreement before using AI tools to resolve disputes?
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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time
As negotiators, we understand that when we enter into a negotiation we need to use our negotiation styles and negotiating techniques to both collaborate and compete with the other side of the table. It is our job to increase the pie of value for all parties, often by identifying differences across issues and making tradeoffs. At the same time, what we are trying to do it to claim as much of that larger pie for ourselves. So what’s the best way to make this happen?