During my time in Federal leadership and program management–and also as an information technology specialist–I have experienced a couple of often overlooked barriers to negotiation and conflict resolution.
First, scientists and technologists may be more likely to have “introverted” personalities and to be “quieter” in nature. How we approach an issue resolution with people that have different traits will often lead us to success or disaster. Before addressing a conflict it is important to determine not only what the goals and interests of the other party may be but also to understand their personality traits. respecting our different natures and traits will keep the door open for successful resolution.
Second, each functional discipline uses its own “language.” This is the use of terminology or acronyms that are meaningful for us, but don’t necessarily translate to anything of meaning to our adversaries/co-negotiators/partners. For example, “techie talk” or “environmental speak” can sound like gibberish and become meaningless to others. It is like what Charlie Brown hears when his teacher talks –“wah, wah, wah, wah.” The effort to meet the audience on their own turf so that they can understand what we are saying is critical for success. We must take extra steps to translate our pitch into something meaningful in their world. For example, by using their measures of success, we can stress the benefit to them of taking a certain action, and the impact or consequences, to their business or program if action is not taken.
It may take a little homework but when we communicate with our audience in mind the likelihood of success is greatly improved.
Negotiation Guidance Associates offers online training courses in negotiation skills for natural resource professionals. We will update this post if training dates in 2023 become available. However, dates are open for online training in 2024.
We often read the advice that we should be well prepared for negotiation. This is sometimes directed at one-on-one negotiations. Buying a car is an example. “Do your research beforehand” they advise. This sounds straightforward but even a simple negotiation can become quite complicated and time-consuming. You are not sure how much preparation is enough.
The problem of preparing for a multi-party negotiation can be even more daunting. It may actually be impossible to know when we have sufficiently prepared! Yet trying to be overly comprehensive may reduce your effectiveness.
Although there are a few basic lessons about multi-party negotiations, preparation is usually one of the main recommendations. In reality, we often find ourselves getting ready for negotiations “on the fly.” We simply don’t have the time or resources to carry out a comprehensive preparation.
Here is a guide for preparing to negotiate “on the fly:”
The five-part guidance for the first-time negotiator in the Unites States is informative about what to watch out for and what not to do. I have listed the guidelines along with comments from people with experience in negotiating with Americans. I have also added a section on “Preparation.”
Sense of Urgency–Quick results
“It is important to be clear and direct when negotiating with Americans.” (Sherk)
“Turkish people, like many Asian cultures, may not explicitly state what they really want to say but expect people to understand immediately. This is why Turkish people in negotiations with Americans have to be clear about what they say. When Americans say “No” they mean it as an absolute answer. However, some Turkish people, when they are asked a question, if they answer “No” they might expect an American to ask again. But Americans do not ask the second time. They accept No as No. Americans give importance to punctuality. Thus, you have to be on time for appointments and meetings.” (Conka)
“Be prepared for the clash between the long- and short-term outlook.” (Mehta)
“America is a large diverse country with many regional sub-cultures. Although Americans are generally friendly, it is sometimes important to learn if your opposite number is someone who wishes to be very direct.” (Sherk)
“In the informal negotiations I have observed–especially between tourists and shopkeepers–Americans like to feel special, like VIPs. When they are treated this way they seem to be more open to doing business (and spending money) because they feel others have recognized their importance and can be trusted.” (Alebouni)
“The most important thing to remember about International negotiations is that personal relationships are paramount.” (Mehta)
How do others see us? This is a great question and it is especially important to understand how we are viewed as negotiators. (Click here to read Part 1)
Recently, I was teaching the negotiation segment of a course at the Office of Personnel Management’s Eastern Executive Seminar Center. About half the students were American and half were from the government of India. We started talking about national negotiating styles, so I asked “What do you see as the American negotiation style?” The first answer from the Indian government personnel was “Arrogant!”
Wow! That was a surprise but it put me in mind if a report from the U.S. Institute for Peace (USIP). Continue reading →
Generally speaking, empathy is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes for the purpose of valuing a person’s perspective and avoiding shame and judgment.It’s the ability to identify what someone is thinking or feeling and respond to their thoughts or feelings with appropriate emotion. In mediation the use of empathic statements conveys to clients that the mediator has a respectful understanding of their thoughts and feelings (Gordon, 2015).
When dialog in the mediation process becomes stuck or unproductive, the use of empathic skills can lead to getting the conversation back on a more productive track. Daniel Goleman (1995) contends that empathy takes three forms, Cognitive, Emotional, and Compassionate. Cognitive empathy in Goleman’s view is the ability to understand another person’s way of processing information or thoughts. It is also referred to as perspective taking. A second form of empathy is what Goleman refers to as Emotional empathy. This is the ability to place yourself in another person’s shoes and identify with their feelings or emotions. Affective intimacy is another way of describing emotional intimacy. With Emotional empathy the listener is giving attention to the feelings being expressed behind a person’s verbal statements. With Compassionate empathy the listener is being moved to offer some form of help or support when she/he feels moved by the feelings and emotions being expressed by an individual.
The use of empathy will sustain dialogue during conflict because it has a good chance of keeping parties engaged in the process (Eddy, 2017). On occasion a mediator will encounter parties that engage in high conflict behavior. There can a noticeable atmosphere of tension in the room. Empathic skills used properly can reduce tension and keep parties involved in the mediation process.
Here are two examples of possible mediator statements:
Negotiating by video-conference, such as Zoom or MS Teams, has recently become more common. When reviewing the on-line literature on this subject it became apparent that there is less research available about how to conduct a video negotiation. But there are a few lessons that might be helpful:
Video-conference negotiations are more similar to telephone negotiations than they are to email negotiations.
In a video conference you are setting the stage and framing the image you want to convey. For this reason it is important to prepare the scene.
We are often asked about negotiating using email. The questions are something like these: “Is it okay to negotiate through email?” “What is the best way to negotiate by email?” or “What are the difficulties in email negotiations?”
Listed below are three links to discussions about email negotiations. Although it is best to read these essays yourself, here are some takeaways:
Email negotiations tend to be more “hardball” so it is difficult to establish a collaborative atmosphere.
It is common in email negotiation for misunderstandings to develop.
Status and other equality factors are often neutralized in email negotiations.
There are many articles about this subject on-line. Good advice is available.
Here are three actions to consider when planning for and conducting email negotiations: Maintain civility, try to have some face-to-face sessions, make sure your internal discussions are off-line, and nail down agreements in writing.
One of the more difficult personalities to face in mediation is when one of the parties exhibits an egotistical, armored, and intimidating personality. These individuals will often display additional character traits such as bullying, grandiosity, vanity, and a lack of empathy. Initially they can be charming and self-confident yet hidden behind this is a cold and calculating attitude. They may resist your best efforts. If you are not careful about how you manage the mediation process, this person will eventually identify you as an enemy to be defeated.
In a highly stressful mediation that involves a difficult personality, you will likely have a better chance of success if you can avoid certain approaches or reactions.
Avoid power struggles. You will be up against someone who has spent most of their lifetime getting their way. They use a win-at-all-costs mentality when they encounter resistance to what they want. Related to this self-centered attitude is the use of mental and emotional intimidation. In the face of this you need to know your weak spots. Because these areas of your personhood will be the first place the difficult person will strike.
Resist the desire to retaliate or defend yourself. Assertive responses by the mediator to intimidation are often experienced as an assault on the person’s sense of specialness, grandiosity, and entitlement. The person using intimidation is probably experiencing you as a threat. See if you can identify and explore his or her feelings behind the defensive behavior. Give the person room to talk about the feelings behind his or her attack. Then you will be in a better place to reassure the individual that you are not there to judge or threaten him or her. In as much detail as you can, clarify your role as a mediator. Ask the person to describe his or her goals for the mediation. Continue reading →