What’s The Best Way For A Negotiator To Resolve A Dispute?

Negotiators need to know how to resolve disputes
Negotiators need to know how to resolve disputes
Image Credit:
Anant Nath Sharma

Would it not be a wonderful world if during each of our negotiations, we were able to get along nicely with the other side of the table? Sure, there are always going to be things that we disagree on, but we’d always be able to work through them and eventually once again see each other eye-to-eye. That would be a great world to live in; however, unfortunately that is not the world that we find ourselves living in. Instead, during a negotiation there is a very good chance that no matter what negotiation styles or negotiating techniques we’ve been using we’re going to run into a dispute that we’re not going to be able to easily resolve. What then?

Using Mediation

We know that we’re facing a real dispute when all our attempts to negotiate a resolution to a dispute have failed. When this happens, it’s probably time for us to go get some outside help. Our first option when we find ourselves in this type of situation is to find a way to mediate the dispute. The goal of any mediation is for us to find a neutral third party who can help both us and the other side come to a consensus on our own.

What your need to realize as a negotiator is that a mediator is not in charge of the negotiation. The best that they can do is to make suggestions. The mediator works with both sides of the negotiation to explore the interests underlying their positions. What using a mediator allows you to do is to vent your feelings and fully explore both sides’ grievances. The three things that a mediator can do are by working with both sides, mediators try to help them hammer out a resolution that is sustainable, voluntary, and nonbinding.

Using Arbitration

As powerful as mediation can be, it’s not always the best way to go about resolving a dispute. Sometimes both sides realize that if we are left to our own devices, we are never going to be able to reach an agreement. However, since we both still want to get a deal out of this negotiation, we are willing to once again bring in a neutral third party to help us out.

Things will be different this time. The neutral third party will serve as a judge who is responsible for resolving our dispute. The arbitrator will listen as each side argues its case and presents relevant evidence. Once this is done, the arbitrator then renders a binding decision that both sides have agreed to abide by in advance. Arbitrators hand down decisions that are usually confidential and that cannot be appealed.

Using Litigation

Finally, when all else has failed, we can always turn to using litigation. We’ll find ourselves turning to litigation when all else has failed and when one or both sides is feeling as though they have been wronged in some way. When we elect to use litigation to resolve a negotiating dispute, this will generally require a defendant to face off against a plaintiff before either a judge or a judge and jury.

Making use of the litigation option can be a very expensive option to select. As negotiators we need to understand that we are going to have to turn the decision making over to the judge or the jury who will be responsible for weighing the evidence and making a ruling. Information conveyed in hearings and trials usually enters the public record. Keep in mind that after the judge / jury has made their ruling in order to resolve your dispute you may still have additional negotiating to do.

What All Of This Means For You

As skilled as we may be as negotiators, during a principled negotiation there is always the possibility that a negotiation is going to come screeching to a halt because we have run into a dispute that we just don’t seem to be able to resolve. If this happens, it does not mean that the negotiations have failed. We still have three different ways that we can go about resolving the dispute.

The first of these techniques is to seek to use mediation. This requires us to bring in a mediator who will listen to both sides and the offer suggestions for how the dispute can be resolved. If that does not work out for us, we can move on to the next stage: arbitration. This requires us to bring in an arbitrator to listen to both sides and then make a ruling that both sides have already agreed to live with. Our final option is litigation. This is where we go to court and allow a judge or a jury to decide how best to resolve our dispute.

As negotiators our ultimate goal is to be able to reach an agreement with the other side. When a dispute arises, it can stand in the way of our ability to successfully wrap up a negotiation. We have three different ways that disputes can be resolved: mediation, arbitration, or litigation. Each technique offers us a different route to get to where we want to be – proud owners of a successful negotiating outcome!

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

Question For You: What do you think is the best way to pick between using arbitration or litigation to resolve a negotiating dispute?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Even the best negotiator in the world probably does not look forward to the process of buying a new car. They know what they are in for: a lengthy process in which they have to go back and forth with a salesperson, using all manner of negotiation styles and negotiating techniques, haggling over details and, of course, the price. Since there is so much information available on the Internet, for anyone to walk into a car dealership without having done some online research would be a big mistake. Given that nobody likes the process and you can collect a lot of information before you start, what is the best way to negotiate to buy a car?