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Improving Performance At The Negotiating Table

Negotiation is generally accepted as the most effective as well as least cost method of conflict resolution. Mediation, arbitration and litigation are the other constructive ways of managing conflict of which the last two are normally expensive and considered not very helpful in building better relationship between the parties in conflict. A successful negotiation focuses on creating and claiming value so that each of the partners leave the table at least with some degree of achievement and satisfaction over the outcome of the deal. This also provides opportunities to get constructively engaged in future deal making on the issues of common concern and enhance the level of cooperation and coordination between stakeholders or conflicting partners.

Negotiation is generally accepted as the most effective as well as least cost method of conflict resolution. Mediation, arbitration and litigation are the other constructive ways of managing conflict of which the last two are normally expensive and considered not very helpful in building better relationship between the parties in conflict. A successful negotiation focuses on creating and claiming value so that each of the partners leave the table at least with some degree of achievement and satisfaction over the outcome of the deal. This also provides opportunities to get constructively engaged in future deal making on the issues of common concern and enhance the level of cooperation and coordination between stakeholders or conflicting partners.The real action in any deal making starts at the negotiating table where the parties face each other and engage in meaningful dialogue to address any outstanding issue or explore common grounds to promote a mutually beneficial agenda. Thus, getting a deal over contentious issues has been a challenge for negotiators in all spheres whether it may be with the various interest groups in the domestic front or within the framework of bilateral, regional of multilateral level of international negotiations. Negotiation requires knowledge, skill and wisdom to handle complex situations and people in order to transform an unfavorable situation into a favorable one. Thus, a successful negotiator should consider three things while starting a negotiation process. First, it is important to know: What of negotiation – entails delving into the issue, its cause, effects and identification of one’s interest and others. Second is: Whom to negotiate – knowing the people and taking stock of their approaches and strategies. And third but equally important is: How of negotiation – focusing on developing comprehensive negotiation strategies with all sort of possible permutations. While devising negotiation strategies, a good negotiator anchors on developing the best alternatives to negotiated agreements or the walk-way point and enriches the value of such alternatives in order to make one’s case stronger at the negotiation table. It is crucial to develop such alternatives to get the best deal out of a negotiation.

The negotiation process starts with preparatory activities which sets the tone for forthcoming deliberations and effectiveness of delivery across the table. It is said that a well prepared strategy is half way in bringing fruition to negotiation and striking a deal. Preparatory activities mainly include an in-depth analysis and review of the issues, collection of relevant information, identification of interest areas, and development of strategies and options with sufficient degree of flexibility to arrive at a common resolve. Besides, building confidence and creating an ambience of mutual trust is important before proceeding to the negotiating table. Successful negotiators make detailed plans. They know their priorities and alternatives should they fail to reach an agreement. Making best of the negotiations may require the following contours:

  • Establish rapport rather than jumping over to the substances: While moving to the negotiating table, the negotiator should establish rapport with the counterpart by putting the simple subject in the front, rather than back-loading complex issues. The negotiator should start the process with background notes and relevant information before entering into the substantive part of the bargain. Such intervention should be in way of communicating concerns with subtlety and establishing effective communication with the negotiating party.
  • Make the first offer: Request and offer is the common method of starting a bargain. Witty negotiators provide the first offer which drags the discussions around their propositions. Draft text of negotiating documents could also be a part of such offer.
  • Use the negotiator’s power carefully: Depending on the position in an organisation or the experiences, skills and academic backgrounds of an individual, negotiators may possess various qualities like expertise on the subject matter, legitimate position to exert pressure, excellent leadership to play brinkmanship, possessing coercive or rewarding position and reverence among people. Such qualities of an individual may be used carefully and in a balanced way to produce intended result of negotiation.
  • Apply bargain or haggling in a professional way: Every bargain normally start at a higher level and leaves room for concessions and compromises. Thus, making the best out of a bargain requires the ability of the negotiator to be flexible in order to resolve the issue in a creative and mutually beneficial manner. The ability to understand the interest of the other party and exploration of the reasoning, rather than merely pushing one’s interest, displays a splendid quality of the negotiator. The negotiator should bear the capability and wisdom to justify the higher value of one’s offer and lower value attached to the offer of the other party, but in a professional manner.
  • Divide the task among sector managers: While negotiating a complex set of issues, the lead negotiator should consider dividing specific tasks to specific experts and sector managers and encourage them to deal with their counterparts. This approach benefits the negotiator in two ways. First, he or she can observe and supervise the development taking place at the technical level and provide overall direction to the process. Second, the lead negotiator can focus on building rapport with the counterpart and bring in strategic interventions to the overall issues of negotiation.

The need for engaging into negotiations with domestic and international stakeholders has been increasing for government officials in Nepal due to the changing political, economic and social landscape brought by democratisation, globalisation and liberalisation of the economy. Hence, it is cardinal to developing competent cadres of negotiators within various organisations of the government in order to advance the country’s interest in the international arena on one side and also create an ambience of peace and harmony in society through the application of constructive methods of conflict resolution. In order to achieve this, the government should focus on creating and nurturing institutions for training and skill development and also encourage research in order to support evidence based negotiation. At the same time, reform in civil service should be introduced with the objective of maintaining institutional memory and to promote specialisation of jobs so that complex negotiation processes can be handled by specialists rather than generalists.

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