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Materials and guides on different aspects of negotiation and conflict resolution. Negotiations: What Are They?

Negotiations: What is it?

Romans divided the spheres of human activity into otium: cultural, pleasure-giving, domestic, and negotium: political, social, military. Negotium is comprised of two words nec (not) and otium (leisure). In ancient Rome negotium was thus seen as the opposite to leisure, it was a difficult but necessary activity for both the state and the society.

Negotiation is a decision-making process that involves one or more parties. It provides opportunities for the parties to exchange information and make commitments leading to the resolution of their disagreements and a settlement. The communication aspect of negotiation is one of its key ingredients. Webster’s (1986) definition of the negotiation is:“To communicate or confer with another so as to arrive at the settlement of some matter.”

Negotiation is the process by which at least two parties try to reach an agreement on matters of mutual interest. The process involves processing and packaging of information, and communication about perceptions and understandings. All these describe accurate or inaccurate images of reality, and implicit assumptions regarding the negotiated issues. If the process is successful, then the parties reach an agreement.

Negotiation is a decision-making process involving two or more parties, who communicate and exchange ideas, arguments and offers with the intention of satisfying their needs and achieving their objectives by educating and informing their counterparts and changing relationships through conferring for agreement.

Parties enter negotiations because of their interdependence. None of the parties can satisfy their needs without the involvement and agreement of the others. The interdependence means that each party wants something that the other party has or does. If the parties could realize their wants and needs independently, there would be no need for negotiation.

Negotiations often require making concessions or compromises in order to resolve the areas of disagreement. If the compromise cannot be achieved the parties are in a deadlock and either they seek some other way to break the deadlock or the negotiation ends with a failure.

The negotiation process may be conducted according to strict procedural rules. More often, however, these rules may be discussed and modified during the process so that they are as much a product of the negotiation as the issues. The negotiation environment is defined by the organizational, political, economic, social and cultural contexts of the negotiators.

Negotiation, as a decision-making process is difficult and time consuming. From the purely economic perspective, negotiation is not an efficient mechanism to distribute resources or determine price and other attributes of a product or service. Such mechanisms as auctions, bidding and markets allow many participants to interact and thus determine the attribute values more efficiently. So why negotiate?

People and organizations engage in negotiations because of tradition. They negotiate because they believe that they can achieve more than they would through legislation, war, market or other methods. They also negotiate because this process allows for extensive communication. Communication is not easy but it is used to clarify the negotiated problem, educate others about our own objectives and needs, and to learn about the objectives and needs of the others, search for new opportunities and new alternatives, and build lasting relationship. Negotiation makes learning and the realization of obstacles and opportunities possible. Nevertheless, as the above example shows, the process, on its own, guarantees neither opportunities nor benefits.

 
  September 26, 2017
 
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InterNeg Research Centre, Concordia University (Montreal)