According to Lewicki and Littener, all negotiation situations like the ones cited above have the following well – defined characteristics.
- There is a conflict of interest between two or more parties; that is, what one wants is not necessarily what the other one wants.
- Either there is no fixed or established set of rules or procedures for resolving the conflict, or the parties prefer to work outside of a set of rules and procedures to invent their own solution to the conflict.
- The parties, at least for the moment, prefer to search for agreement rather than to fight openly, to have one side capitulate, to break off contact permanently, or to take their dispute to a higher authority for resolution.
Negotiation is a complex communication process. it becomes all the more complex in view of the fact that one round of negotiation is just an episode in a long – term relationship. That is exactly what happens in labour – management relations. Adequate preparation is a ‘key concern’ for the negotiation. Before getting into the process of negotiation a review of the history of previous negotiating sessions and their outcomes must be taken into account. Without careful consideration of the previous sessions the negotiator runs a great risk. This will help him in planning his move/moves. Anyway, before that, we must take note of the factors that vitally determine the outcome of the negotiation process. They are:
- Whether the parties see their interests as depending on each other;
- The extent of trust or distrust that parties repose in each other;
- The personalities of the people actually involved in negotiation;
- The goals and interests of the parties, and
- Each party’s ability to communicate clearly, persuades, or coerces the other party to accept its point of view.
It has been said in the very first chapter of this book that all communication is ‘structured’. Negotiation is a complex communication event, and therefore has a complex structure. Marketing researchers are generally of the opinion that negotiation is four – stage process. Each researcher has invented different names for these stages, or ‘moves’. They have however been generally labeled as opening, exchange of information, change of position, and closing.
These market researchers have not analysed the language of negotiation. An analysis of the language of a typical bargaining negotiation throws up nine stages or episodes that occur in the following order.
- FIRST PRICE
- DISCUSSION OF PRODUCTS
It must, however, be pointed out that all nine language – based stages are not required to be present in a negotiation. It is also observed that these stage do not occur only once in each negotiation. Many stages may be recursive, or, may be repeated. Further linguistic analysis of negotiations taking place in ‘American English’. Throw up the following six ‘distinctive episode’ structure:
This linguistic analysis of the distinctive episodes of negotiation supports the four – stage model put forward by marketing researchers. Interestingly, it has also found that no negotiation contains only these episodes. This finding shows the richness and complexity of the negotiation.
An ‘inside’ look at the negotiation process reveals five factors or ‘underlying linguistic behaviors – Information, Interaction, Meta-talk, Concession, and Agreement. In the words of Joyce Neu, an applied linguist, “Certain functions (content) in negotiation are, systematically accomplished by certain ways of speaking (Structure)”
- Information: The first factor, information contains the content variables or functions self disclosure (giving information about oneself) and exclusive ‘we’ (“we” used to mean the speaker and someone other than the negotiating opponent) and the structure variables self repairs and filled pauses’. Filled pauses hold the floor for speakers when they experience difficulties (as seen by the presence of self – repairs) in encoding a message. As such, this factor might be labeled floor maintenance’.
- Interaction: the second factor, ‘Interaction’, contains the content (or function) variable request for information and the structure variables ‘soft’ (soft voice volume), ‘acknowledgement’ (giving feedback) and ‘echo’ (repeating a part, or all, of the previous speaker’s utterance). These three variables help the current speaker leave the floor to another speaker either through passive acquiescence (feedback and soft volume), or through active involvement (requesting information). Thus, this factor promotes interaction.
- Metatalk: the third factor, ‘Metatalk’ contains only content variables. The three variables ‘recommendation’ (making a suggestion/recommendation), ‘shield’ (“I don’t know”, “may be”, “I think”, etc) and inclusive “we” (“we” used to mean the speaker and the other negotiators present) function together to reflect or show a concern with the ongoing process. It is seen in suggestions like – why don’t we may be first talk about fax machines?”. It is, thus, a part of procedural discourse.
- Concession: The fourth factor has been called concession as it has the content variable concession (conceding to the opponent) with the structure variables ‘slow’ (slow speech rate) and ‘loud’ (loud voice volume). They indicate deliberation and intentionality.
- Agreement: The final factor ‘Agreement’ contains the content variables ‘commitment’ (agreement to do something) and positive response (acknowledging the other speaker’s utterance with a positive, or agreeing response) and the structure variable ‘overlap’ (segment of talk which overlaps with another speaker’s talk). This factor appears to indicate a willingness even an eagerness (as seen in overlap), to commit.
These five factors constitute the underlying, behaviour of negotiation. The first two ‘information’ and interaction are common to all communication events. The last three – Meta-talk, concession, and Agreement are particular to oral discourse or communication, and more specifically, to negotiations. Hence, from the point of view of functional analysis of the language used in negotiation it is clear that no headway can be made in negotiation, that takes place mostly in oral medium, without Meta-talk concession and agreement.
Every negotiator is concerned with the outcome of the negotiation process in which he is participating. In other words, the negotiating parties are interested in the stability aspect of the outcome of negotiation. If there is any reason to regret or resent or withdraw certain moves the parties would like to reopen the negotiations. If, on the other hand, the parties feel that they are satisfied with the whole exercise of negotiation, its outcome will be fairly stable and they will have no regrets. On the basis of the stability aspect of negotiated settlement, the negotiation processes have been divided into two categories- Integrative and distributive.
The integrative process of negotiation is one in which parties on both the sides feel that they are gaining what they expected. They are happily reconciled, empathetic, open, receptive and satisfied. Such a situation has widely come to be known as a ‘win – win situation’. In this connection it is worthwhile quoting Stephen covey who says, “Win – win is based on the paradigm that there is plenty for everybody, that one person’s success is not achieved at the expense or exclusion of the success of others.”
The distributive process of negotiation is one which each of the parties tries to grab maximum benefit, and impose maximum losses on the other. This has come to be known as a win/lose situation. Another nomenclature for it is ‘Zero Sum’ which means that one party’s gain counterbalances the other party’s loss. Such a negotiation is based on contentions, and the outcome is unstable. Regarding this situation Stephen covey says, “In leadership style. Win/lose is the authoritarian approach…. Win/lose people are prone to use position, power, credentials, possession, or personality to get their way”.
Researchers have pointed out that both integrative and distributive processes are at work in every negotiation. The negotiators can’t ideally choose to stick to one kind of process in preference over the other. On the other hand, a negotiation involves a tension between the two processes. It is on the whole a healthy tendency as it enables the negotiator to protect his own interest, without, of course, destabilizing the entire deal or process.
Much has been written about the way we should negotiate. Many of the instruction/directions/guidelines offered in this regard sound plain commonsense. But it must be kept in mind that negotiations are not all that easy. It is above all a matter of ‘pragmatics’ that is “concerned with assessment of the effectiveness of the communication process and judges the efficiency of the communication in relation to the extent to which it achieves its purpose”. It is, therefore, necessary to keep in mind the nature of the process as discussed above and follow the advice of communication experts. It can be simplified in the following steps: