REPORTS FROM THE FIELD: FINDING A PATH FORWARD WITH THE ART OF NEGOTIATION

Even practitioners new to the art of negotiation can find success! In July,  Negotiation Guidance Associates  (NGA) completed training for employees of Mendocino National Forest and other Forest Service employees in the art and practice of negotiation. Wrote one student, “This training on Advancing the Art of Negotiation was one of the best trainings I have ever attended.” Said another, “[I] enjoyed the example court cases and

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Susan K. Driver presents at the Advancing the Art of Negotiation course.

 exercises.” The majority of students reported that their knowledge of negotiation skills had greatly improved as a result of the course. 

Of the 20 students in the course, 72% said they had poor or very poor understanding of the principles, skills and techniques of negotiation before taking the course but 61% said they had a very good or excellent understanding after completing the training.

Instructors for the course were Susan K. Driver, J.D., Robert Deibel, and Dr. Berton Lee Lamb.

Advancing the Art of Negotiation is provided by NGA for special audiences throughout the United States..

The course is organized in three segments. The first section concentrates on the fundamentals of conflict resolution, basic negotiation knowledge, and strategies. The second section focuses on skill-building with exercises to sharpen skills and practice techniques. The third section offers a concentration appropriate to the interest and current work of the sponsor. In this training, NGA concentrated on the FERC process.

As the presenter in the third segment of the course, Robert Deibel observed that the students were engaged and 

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Robert Deibel answers questions during the Advancing the Art of Negotiation Course

attentive to building their skill set. One of the students offered this review: “This was an excellent course with great instructors. I learned a lot not only regarding interactions and negotiations but the technical aspects of FERC relicensing. I highly recommend this course to anyone involved in FERC.

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Negotiation Quick Tips: Asking Questions

In a recent post on the Harvard Program on Negotiation (PON) Daily Blog, the PON staff writes about asking questions in a way that promotes trust and understanding. We have written about this in an earlier post.

The lesson from the PON staff is to craft questions that lead to learning and don’t reflect advocacy or promote defensiveness.

Two types of questions to avoid:

Leading Questions–these are questions such as “Don’t you think…?” or “Can’t you see…?” These types of questions result in defensive answers or no answers at all.

Loaded Questions–these are questions where the questioner uses evaluative words such as “inexperienced,” “self-serving,” “uninformed,” etc. We can all remember hearing questions like this.

The PON staff say that, “Both types of questions can trigger defensiveness and emotional reactions.”

On the other hand, crafting open-ended, non-leading, non-loaded questions can be difficult. The key is to try gathering information and exploring priorities. The PON staff suggests something like, “I’m interested in hearing your opinion….” Or, “Tell me why you think this option would work better?” Or, “Can you tell me more?”

The lesson from the PON blog post: “When we approach our counterparts with genuine interest and respect, they are likely to respond in kind.”

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Does Collaboration Make a Difference?

A study published in 2015 examined three hydropower licensing cases that were characterized as having high, medium, and low collaboration. The author, Nicola Ulibarri, found that high collaboration resulted in “jointly developed and highly implementable operating regimes designed to improve numerous resources, while low collaboration resulted in operating requirements that ignored environmental concerns raised by stakeholders and lacked implementation provisions” (abstract).

Although Ms Ulibarri’s findings are based on a sample size of three cases, her findings are helpful. She concludes that a “full suite of collaborative dynamics appears necessary” for success (p. 17). This suite includes: trust, principled negotiation, and leadership. Moreover, success depends on “the extent and quality of collaboration.”

Source: Nicola Ulibarri (2015) “Tracing Process to Performance of Collaborative Governance: a comparative Case Study of Federal Hydropower Licensing.” Policy Studies Journal vol 00, No. 0 (Open access article). Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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Do Negotiators Adapt their Message to Communicate with Competing Parties?

In a recent article appearing in Policy Science  Political Scientists Mark McBeth, Donna Lybecker and James Stoutenborough examined the reasons why negotiators might switch between “personal message choice” and “public communication choice.” They describe public communication choice as a message that takes into account how the audience might best receive it.

These scientists found that 53% of negotiators did not switch their communication choice. In other words, more than half of those studied chose to stick with their preferred narrative.

One important factor suggested by the researchers to explain why negotiators did decide to switch away from their preferred narrative is the recognition that “there was a difference between themselves and the wider public.”  Age was another factor. Young people were also found to be more likely to switch. Switching narrative also sometimes appeared to be a strategy choice.

The scientists identified a tension that exists when parties decide whether or not to tailor their message to fit the culture of their audience. When making this decision negotiators must weigh the importance and ethics of discussing options in a language that is culturally sensitive to other groups. Changing the message away from personal preference might promote discussion but tailoring the message to an audience might be an attempt to “sell” a preferred option.

Source: McBeth, Mark K., Donna L. Lybecker, James W. Stoutenborough.  2016.  “Do stakeholders analyze their audience? The communication switch and stakeholder personal versus public communication choices,” Policy Sciences.  doi: 10.1007/s11077-016-9252-2

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Should Mediators “Evaluate?”

Here is a quote from a blurb that recently appeared in the International Chamber of Commerce webpage:

“..the benefit of mediation was seen as lying in the mediator’s ability to look beyond the polarised positions of the parties and find middle ground by analysing the parties’ positions and making each reflect on its own and the other’s position.”

Should a mediator analyze the parties’ positions and present the results of that evaluation? If so, when should the mediator do this? Continue reading

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The Role of a Mediator

A blog post by Katherine Graham about the role of a mediator recently came across my desk. Ms. Graham makes a good point that mediators should avoid the very natural tendency to pull the parties toward a solution.

She writes “…only when parties are willing to talk about themselves–to make themselves visible–is the [discussion] transformed into meaningful words.” (Page 2) With that observation in mind she tells us that the best mediators are humble and create a space in which the parties are invited to be kind, open, and empathetic.

You can find this article and others at www.mediate.com/articles

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“Core Competencies” is a Popular Article on ResearchGate

“Core Competencies for Natural Resource Negotiators” by Shana Gillette and Berton Lee Lamb reached the milestone of more than 50 downloads from researchgate.net. Click here to view and download the article.

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