Negotiators And The Art Of Conflict Resolution

During a negotiation, conflicts have to be dealt with
During a negotiation, conflicts have to be dealt with
Image Credit: micadew

Let’s face it – a negotiation is tough work. However, if you want to make things just a little bit more difficult, then you can throw in some conflicts along the way and now you really have your work cut out for you. Negotiators can define conflict resolution as the informal or formal process that two or more parties use to find a peaceful solution to their dispute. These things have to be worked out using our negotiation styles and negotiating techniques if you want the negotiation to continue towards a deal. A number of common cognitive and emotional traps, many of them unconscious, can exacerbate conflict and contribute to the need for conflict resolution. How can a negotiator work though conflicts when they arise?

Interpreting Fairness In A Self-Serving Way

When a conflict pops up during a negotiation, what happens next is very important. All too often rather than deciding what’s fair from a position of neutrality, we interpret what would be most fair to us, then justify this preference on the bases of fairness. A good example of this is when two parties believe that they both deserve the majority of a payment. A disagreement about this can quickly lead to conflict between both parties.

Becoming Overconfident

When it comes to resolving conflicts, it can be too easy to become overconfident. This tends to happen because we tend to be overconfident in our judgments, a tendency that leads us to unrealistic expectations. The people who are in conflict are likely to be overconfident about their odds of winning a lawsuit, for instance, an error that can lead them to shun a negotiated settlement that would save them both time and money.

Allowing Your Commitment To Escalate

We all like the decisions that we’ve made. When we come up with a plan of attack to an issue, we can decide that this is truly the best course of action. This is when problems can start. No matter if negotiators are dealing with any one of a number of different issues, they are likely to irrationally escalate their commitment to their chosen course of action, long after it has proven useful. The reason that we do this is because we are desperately try to recoup our past investments in a dispute (such as money spent on legal fees), failing to recognize that such “sunk costs” should play no role in our decisions about the future.

Avoiding Conflict

When it comes to conflicts, all of us would like to be able to avoid them. Conflicts cause negative emotions and these cause us discomfort and distress. When this happens we may try to tamp them down, hoping that our feelings will dissipate with time. The reality is that conflict tends to make people become more entrenched, and parties have a greater need for conflict resolution when they avoid dealing with their strong emotions. If we really don’t like conflict, then what can a negotiator do? Conflicts can be resolved in a variety of ways, including negotiation, mediation, arbitration, and litigation.

Using Your Negotiating Skills

The good news for negotiators is that in order to resolve conflicts, we can use our negotiating skills. You can and should draw on the same principles of collaborative negotiation that you use in deal making. This means that when resolving conflicts you should aim to explore the interests underlying parties’ positions, such as a desire to resolve a dispute without attracting negative publicity or to repair a damaged business relationship. You can also determine your best alternative to a negotiated agreement, or BATNA—what you will do if you fail to reach an agreement. If you take the time to brainstorming options and look for tradeoffs across issues, you may be able to negotiate a satisfactory outcome to your dispute without the aid of outside parties.

Using Mediation

Sometimes a conflict just cannot be resolved by the people who are involved in it. In inviting mediation to resolve a conflict, disputants enlist a trained, neutral third party to help them come to a consensus. The role of a mediator is not to impose a solution. Instead a professional mediator encourages disputants to explore the interests underlying their positions. By working with parties both together and separately, mediators seek to help them discover a resolution that is sustainable, voluntary, and nonbinding.

Using Arbitration

Sometimes the best way to resolve a conflict is to get both parties together so that they can air their issues. In arbitration, which can look like a court trial, a neutral third party serves as a judge who makes decisions to end the conflict. The arbitrator listens to the arguments and evidence presented by both sides, then renders a binding and often confidential decision. Although the parties typically can’t appeal an arbitrator’s decision, they can negotiate most aspects of the arbitration process, including whether lawyers will be present and which standards of evidence will be used.

Using Litigation

Sometimes, a conflict has no other way of being resolved than by both parties going to court. In a civil litigation, a defendant and a plaintiff face off before either a judge or a judge and jury, who weigh the evidence and make a ruling. An important point to keep in mind for both parties is that information presented in hearings and trials usually enters the public record. Lawyers typically dominate litigation, which very often ends in a negotiated settlement during the pretrial period.

What All Of This Means For You

Conflicts can slow down a principled negotiation and in fact can bring them to a grinding halt if they are not dealt with. Negotiators not only have to know how to negotiate, but we also have to get good at coming up with ways to resolve the various conflicts that can happen during a negotiation. As with all such things in life, there is not just one way to go about doing this. We need to understand the conflict and then pick the right way to deal with it.

We need to understand that when we want to resolve a conflict, we need to start things off by making sure that we can do so fairly. We don’t want to allow ourselves to become overconfident and we need to make sure that we understand that what has been done is done, and we don’t want to overcommit because of the investment that we have already made. It’s always a good idea if we can avoid conflict in the first place. We can use our negotiating skills to resolve conflicts and if this fails, then we can use mediation, arbitration, or even litigation.

In general, it makes sense to start off less-expensive, less-formal conflict resolution procedures, such as negotiation and mediation, before making the larger commitments of money and time that arbitration and litigation often demand. Conflict-resolution training can further enhance your ability to negotiate satisfactory resolutions to your disputes. Take the time to resolve conflicts when they show up and then you can keep on negotiating to get the deal that you want.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Negotiating Skills™

Question For You: How can you show the other side that you will be fair in resolving a conflict?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As negotiators, when we are trying to sell something the one thing that we all want to do is to avoid falling into any traps during our next negotiation. However, the problem that we all face is that no matter what negotiation styles or negotiating techniques we are using, traps can be difficult to spot and even harder to avoid. If we can learn what they look like and how we can avoid them, then we can boost our chances of being able to reach the deal that we want with the other side.