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The InterNeg Negotiation Glossary

Negotiation is a process that involves two or more agents who communicate for the purpose of exchanging some goods and defining the terms of the exchange.

The purpose of negotiation is exchange of goods, but the term goods should not be viewed in purely materialistic terms; goods may be services, favours, influences, political issues, etc. The negotiation requires exchange; the parties have to "give in order to get", if one side only gives (or gets) we deal with an altruistic donation. The necessity to define the goods and the exchange terms allows to distinguish negotiation from a straight exchange as, for example, sales. Finally, negotiation are based on communication, that is exchange of information. Hence one could say that:

Negotiation is an exchange of information for the purpose of defining the terms to exchange some goods (which may be information).

A generic name for the possible choices that a negotiator may choose from. There may be alternative issues, options and packages. In decision science, alternatives are possible decisions,or elements of the set of alternatives, from which the decision maker may select.

A settlement process in dispute resolution in which the parties present their case or their final offers to a third party. The third party has a power to impose a solution (compromise).

Best alternative to the negotiated agreement.

A negotiation style named for Lemuel Boulware, a former vice president of General Electric, in which one's first offer is also one's final offer.

Circular logrolling
A concession process in multilateral negotiations that require each negotiator to offer another negotiator a concession on one issue and receive a concession on a different issue and form a different negotiator.

A need for, or desire to, immediate answers and resolutions to a particular situation.

A subgroup of two or more negotiators (parties) who join together and pool their resources to influence the outcomes of a multilateral negotiations.

An obligation or pledge to do or deliver someting.

Compensation, nonspecific
An integrative negotiation approach in which one party receives what they want and the other party is compensated (repaid) in some other way that is relevant to this party. The compensation invoolves one or more issues that are not subject to negotiations.

A compromise or agreement is the package (combination of options) across all issues that both negotiators jointly agree upon after exchanging a sequence of offers.

Condorcet paradox
A result of a majority decision made by a group which depends on the order in which the alternatives are voted upon.

Confirmation error
A tendency to seek supporting arguments for someone's belief that may lead to ignore or discount information that is relevant but not supportive.

Confirmation error
A tendency to seek supporting arguments for someone's belief that may lead to ignore or discount information that is relevant but not supportive.

Cost cutting
An approach in integrative negotiations in which the costs of accepting a compromise are reduced or eliminated. One party achieves what they want and the other party's costs are reduced.

Fixed pie assumption
The belief that the set of possible packages is given and cannot be enlarged accompanied with the conviction that the parties' interestes are in full (strict) opposition. This assumption underiles distributive or competitive negotiations.

Focal values
Arbitrary values such as salient numbers, figures that are considered valid or typical.

Inefficient agreement
An alternative (package) that is accepted by the parties but which is dominated by some other alternative, that is there is an alternative that is better for at leastone party than the accepted agreement and not worse for any other party.

A person who intevenes between two or more parties.

A topic of discussion that is of particular interest in a negotiation. Each issue has a range of alternatives or options, one of which must ultimately be agreed upon by the negotiators in order to achieve a compromise.

Latent conflict
Conflict that exists but is not perceived.

A kind of trade-off between two or more decision makers: giving favours or making concessions on condition of receiving other favours. Logroling is NOT an integrative strategy but trading off interests where each party concedes on the low priority issues for the purpose to realize high priority issues.

Negotiation dance
The process of making offers and counter-offers by the parties.

A combination of options (a package) that is sent by one negotiator to the other. An offer may contain one option for each issue under considerations, or some issues may not be present in the offer. The latter case is typical for sequential negotiations.

One of the alternative values that an issue can take. For example, the issue "Tolerable product failure rate" may have the options "3%", "5%" and "10%".

A particular combination of options that has been selected across several or all the negotiated issues. An example of a package is given in the table below:




Upon delivery

Failure rate


The basis of a person's influence over another; the ability to influence someone else's decisions.

Power, coercive
The ability to influence the behaviour of, and decisions made by, another person by punishing this person or threatening with punishment.

Prenegotiation is the first phase of a negotiation. It refers to the initial period (prior to exchange of any offers) when one prepares for the negotiation. Some activities involved in this phase include problem definition, preference elicitation and evaluation of alternative packages.

A "settlement" is the same as an agreement or compromise, and "post-settlement" refers to the period after the first compromise has been achieved.

Reservation level
The minimum (or maximum) level for an issue that a negotiator is willing to accept.

Sequential negotiations
Negotiation process in which only one issue is discussed at a time. After the parties agree on the discussed issue another issue is introduced and negotiated.

A trade-off is an exchange process in which a decision maker gives up partly on some issues so as to gain on other issues.

Utility function
A "utility function" is a subjective measurement that expresses the relative value (worth) of different packages (alternatives) by using a numerical scale. The numerical scale used is arbitrary, typically ranging either from 0 to 1 or from 1 to 100. The minimum number expresses the least desirable and least preferred package. The highest number represents the most desirable and preferred package.

Utility function, concave
The utility value decreases marginally, i.e., additional gains bring smaller increases in the utility.

Winner's curse
A situation in which a negotiator makes an offer that is immediately accepted by the other parties; the immediate acceptance implies that the negotiator offered too much and perhaps could achieve a compromise that would be better for this negotiator.

Zone of possible agreements: it is the set of alternative packages (alternative decisions) which meet the reservation levels of the negotiators. Therefore, each of packages in the zone may be selected as an agreement.

Concordia University (Montreal) and Carleton University (Ottawa)
© Copyright 1996-2005 Gregory Kersten & The InterNeg Group