Negotiation Lessens Learned, Essay Example

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Essay

Introduction

My purpose in writing and presenting the following paper is to identify, as clearly as possible, how my perceptions regarding negotiation processes have changed as a result of the course.  I will attempt to define my earlier ideas on the subject, which were inherently unformed, or at least indistinct.   From there I intend to focus on several aspects of negotiations which have most intrigued me, and about which I believe I have learned the most.  These are the role of the dual concern model in negotiating; how the components of reputation, trust, and justice impact on the process; and how cultural differences, particularly in today’s world, present new challenges and opportunities in negotiation.   Finally, I will summarize my feelings in regard to the course, my former thinking, and my ideas as they exist today.

Background

Before taking the course, I am compelled to say that my conception of negotiation, in any form, was likely typical and uninformed.  More exactly, it seemed to me a specific activity contained within the worlds of business, with an occasional presence in less commercial arenas.  I knew, for example, that romantic partners often “negotiate” their relationships, but I perceived this as a satiric extension of what is essentially always a business concern.  This viewpoint also inclined me to limit the duration of negotiation.  As I saw it as a process born from specific needs to suit a current circumstance, so too did I think of it as almost an emergency function, taken on when required and just as quickly disregarded.  I also believed, if on a vague level, that negotiation was chiefly a one-sided affair as entered into by individual parties.  I thought the process, in fact, occurred only when two conflicting parties had no choice but to seek compromise, as either is concerned only with achieving its own ends.   If one party engaged in attempts to understand the motives of the other, my viewpoint interpreted this only as tactical, and by no means as empathic.

Elements of Negotiation

I now address that last misconception held by me, because I feel it goes to conveying better my new understanding of the subject in its entirety.  As noted,  I had believed that negotiation was nothing more than two self-interests colliding, and forced to adjust their wants in order to make any gains at all.  This translates to my having seen the process as intrinsically negative, in place only when no other recourse is possible.  The dual concerns model changes this perception completely, for I have come to see that empathy may be as motivating an agent in negotiation as self-interest.  I cannot overstate how radically this alters my view because it essentially gives negotiation a scope I had not believed it could have.

This is not to lessen the role of assertiveness in negotiation, either as an instigator for it or a stance adopted throughout.  I comprehend that, empathy notwithstanding, most negotiation likely occurs because of a need to achieve an individual goal, either personal or corporate.  At the same time, I also understand that assertiveness is by no means synonymous with aggression or a combative approach, and this diminishes the harshness of it in my eyes.  A self-interest, for example, may be greatly altruistic, as in the efforts of a doctor to negotiate with a hospital for more accessible patient care.  The doctor undertakes the negotiation simply because, at the time, no one is better placed to secure results, and this contrasts the typical idea of “:self-interest.”  Assertiveness, then, is no strident ambition that must be restrained during negotiation, but more the simple existence of the party’s reasons for entering into the process.  It is nothing more, or certainly may be nothing more, than the expression of the motive.

The dual concern model also leads me to speculate on further varieties of negotiation, and some completely opposed to my initial definition.  As assertiveness and empathy are the twin forces at play, there is no reason to suppose that empathy itself may not trigger negotiation.  It may be, for example, that a large business, not threatened by a small competitor, has a sense that both concerns serve each other.  If the small business requires assistance, then, the larger may negotiate to offer it primarily to preserve a unity, even though it stands to gain nothing of substance.  The negotiation may then follow a course where the small business holds out for conditions in place to “assert” its independence, to which the larger complies out of further empathy.   If the example is extreme for the business world, it nonetheless reveals the possibilities within negotiation when a dual concern model is applied.

Equally interesting to me have been the explorations of the components of reputation, trust, and justice within negotiation.  As with the seemingly out-of-place quality of empathy in the dual concern model, these factors very much play pragmatic and vastly important roles in the process.

I perceive the quality of reputation, not so much as a facet of that process, but as a foundational component necessary to its occurring.  This is, of course, based on an assumption that the reputation is strong; a weak one will more emphatically affect how the average negotiation proceeds, as it becomes a liability to be considered when terms are set forth.   This acknowledged, however, I feel that a valid reputation, either personally or otherwise, is critical in that it provides a foundation of understanding for the negotiation.  Reputation, in a word, enables.  It allows the circumstances for an even-handed negotiation to be created.

Obviously linked to this is, as I perceive it, trust, although the connection is by no means absolute.  That is to say, the parties entering the negotiation with solid repute on each side generate initial trust, as this may occur through business investigation, visceral impressions, or both.  Each party is confident in the integrity and ethics of the other, and the negotiation has as strong a platform as it can anticipate having.  Trust, however, is rarely a fixed property, and degree of trust may easily change within the process.  It is no doubt common that expressions of assertiveness, carried to higher levels during the process and understated at its commencement, create in the other party a suspicion of duplicity.  This may not be at all the case but, whenever empathy and assertion are the key components, something of a delicate balance is in place because perception, ultimately, dictates a negotiation’s progress.   This element, in fact, goes to another awareness I have of negotiation, which is that it mirrors many of the characteristics of a personal relationship.   Most especially, it resembles the relationship in that trust is never entirely a static quality, but a reactive presence created and maintained by both parties.

Not unexpectedly, the factor of justice is also critical.  What renders this particularly interesting is that, in negotiation, the typically assumed definition of what justice is becomes remarkably malleable.  Negotiation, in a word, tends to make fluid concepts usually believed to be unchanging, as justice within the process is very much a matter of interpretation.  This is true because of that inescapable and motivating force of self-interest, which may easily sway a party into an idea of justice as leaning somewhat toward self-interest, and for either party.  As I further reflect on what I have learned about negotiation, in fact, I am more inclined to believe that trust and justice, and particularly the latter, render a disinterested arbiter a valuable ingredient.  The reality is that, no matter the focus of the involved parties, assertiveness and empathy create far too many opportunities for unhelpful gradations of them to be manifested, and the unbiased presence of an arbiter, in place only to secure proper degrees of trust, justice, and cooperation, is critical, if not essential.  This may be true of the simple, two-person negotiation as it is of the complex, corporate machination, because the mutability then changes only in regard to scale.

Lastly, with regard to cultural differences affecting negotiation, I am relieved to say that this is an aspect I found unsurprising.  It is as well just as complex and varied as the number of cultures engaged in communication and negotiation today.  This being the case, it seems to me there can be no “blanket” strategy for addressing how one party’s cultural background may influence a negotiation, for all that can be known is that varied ethics and perspectives will be at play.  Certainly, a responsible party will seek to understand as best as possible what this background may mean to the process.  Customs and morality may be learned, at least intellectually. Unfortunately, a mark of cultural diversity is that one example of it is inherently alien to another.  Even a conscious understanding of certain cultural parameters is not likely to translate to a visceral one, and it is the visceral that so influences the other culture.  I tend to think that, given the expanse of these circumstances, cultural issues are best approached in negotiation through the development, first and foremost, of mutual trust.  Emphasis must be made on this because the diversity at play presents endless opportunities for lapses in communication, misinterpretation, and all other perceptions vital to the process.  With trust established and maintained, however, such potentially crippling factors are rendered manageable.

Conclusion

In assessing where I was in regard to negotiation, and where I stand after the course, my initial reaction is a sense of respect.  That is to say, I realize the enormity and complexity of negotiation, even as I continually see within it parallels to other means of interaction.  I believe this is important because, while I do not seek to approach every interchange I make with others in a negotiation framework, I am compelled to say that I will nonetheless use my knowledge in these circumstances.  As complex as the subject is, negotiation remains still merely a way for different parties to be mutually satisfied, and that is something of a definition of society itself.  It is people speaking to one another, set to achieve goals while gaining an understanding of what the other’s needs are.  It is compromise and cooperation, which elements are to be found in all social behavior.

This in mind, I am confident that I will further explore the potentials taken in through this course, if only because my awareness of the potentials of negotiation is so much broader.  At the same time, I also think that my increased understanding of the actual components of negotiation will serve me in recognizing them when they are presented to me, or  exercise them myself.  This does not equate to my now viewing negotiation as nothing more than a skill I am on my way to mastering; rather, it means that I am better equipped.

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