Threats in Negotiation

Often, when we interview parties in a dispute, we find that they have focused on the threats posed by their adversaries. In these situations, it is important to step back and examine the threats as objectively as possible.

An article published in The Duck of Minerva (Valeriano 2013) a good example of using objective analysis to examine threats. Although the example given is threats that would need to be countered by an independent Scotland, the article is worth a read.

The authors suggest three themes that we might consider in an objective threat analysis:

  1. Frames: As we examine the arguments being used  to describe the threats we face, it is important to think about alternative frames. How could this conflict (or potential conflict) be seen from a different angle? Why has the conflict been framed in the way that it has? Have we selected the right frame to guide our planning?
  2. Addiction to Fear: It is always advisable to understand whether or not we have succumbed to the temptation to focus on our fears. If the authors are correct, humans are quick to think about what makes them afraid. Those who are planning a negotiation should be encouraged to also think about opportunities.
  3. Threat Categories: The authors use three categories to examine the question of potential threats. These might be expressed as Structural, Situational, and Complications.

Structural threats arise from the structure of our environment. These “institutional” factors can include the rules under which we operate, organizational policies, or supervisory span of control. Situational threats might include our adversaries’ incentives to cause conflict. Shared incentives to resolve conflicts could also be fruitful lines for examination. Complications might include such considerations as the effects of our alliances.

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1 Response to Threats in Negotiation

  1. I have been reading Byron Katie’s book, “I Need Your Love – Is That True?” Katie has some great questions that she suggests could be asked of any scary or fearful thought. Here they are:
    1. Is it true?
    2. Can you absolutely know that it is true?
    3. How do you react when you believe that thought?
    4. Who would you be without the thought?
    5. Turn the thought around (go in the opposite direction)

    That’s a long way of saying that some of the factors you mentioned (Frames, Addiction to fear, and Threat categories) might well be addressed by the questions Katie poses. In each of the categories the article and you mentioned, it seems to me that countries and people jump to a lot of conclusions based on the assumptions they carry in their traditions and in their heads. Good questions can interrupt the patterns they are sticking to and convert all three factors into neutral. I don’t know if this makes any sense. I’m thinking one more paragraph to help the reader easily move to analyze the three factors the authors pose and come out on the other side of fear.
    Click Here for Dr. Sanders’ blog.

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