In negotiation, we are often confronted with the task of dealing with difficult people—those who seem to prefer to set up roadblocks rather than break down walls, or who choose to take hardline stances rather than seeking common ground.
How can you deal with such difficult people?
One tactic you might consider is avoiding the conversation altogether by finding more collaborative negotiating partners, but this is not always an option.
When avoidance is impossible, strengthening your best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA) can help give you the confidence you need to deal with obstinacy among negotiating partners.
Some might argue that confrontation is inevitable. But a wide range of collaborative efforts around the country have shown that it can be avoided.
How can negotiators find their way into the trading zone quickly and easily?
One proven method is joint fact finding.
Joint fact finding is a multistep, collaborative process for bringing together negotiating partners with different interests, values, and perspectives. Here are the five stages through which joint fact finding typically proceeds.
The MIT-Harvard Public Disputes Program, one of the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School’s many research programs, acts as a center for research committed to thinking about and resolving disputes in the public sector. Led by its Director and Program on Negotiation executive committee member Lawrence Susskind, the MIT-Harvard Public Disputes Program conducts research dealing with international environmental treaty negotiations, public sector consensus building, and advocating for the importance of the science behind any negotiations about resource management.
When you communicate in person, social norms – including body language, manners, and physical appearance – guide your behavior and ease the process. A common environment can facilitate understanding as well. Over the telephone, the speaker’s intensity, speed, and inflection provide useful social information.
As a consequence, face-to-face and telephone interactions generate greater social awareness and greater stability and cooperation than do online interactions.
Preparation. Practice. Persistence. Those qualities make for a good firefighter, and as Nantucket Firefighter Nate Barber learned from working with Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program (HNMCP) students, they also make for a good negotiator.
As a member of Nantucket’s Local 2509 of the International Association of Firefighters and a former undergraduate negotiation student at Boston University, Mr. Barber knew relations between the Town of Nantucket’s management and his union could be better. Since the firefighters’ contracts only lasted two or three years and the negotiation process itself often took that long, the union and the management sat down for contract negotiations every year. And every year, the negotiations spilled over into the next year or, if it was the final year of the contract, went to arbitration. This impacted everyone: arbitration provoked more fighting, poorer relations, and less of what everyone wanted. They hadn’t had a mutual agreement for six years. As one of the interested parties, though, Mr. Barber knew he was not the person to fix a broken bargaining system.
In Lessons in Life Diplomacy, the New York Times’ Bruce Feiler asks, how do we break out of negative patterns of conduct and proactively approach problems encountered in our everyday lives? His advice, gleaned from his own experiences as well as from the research of experts in the field of conflict management and dispute resolution, is actually quite simple on its face yet very complex in practice.
Negotiations become especially complex when agents are involved on two or more sides.
In the course, of their research, Robert Mnookin and Lawrence Susskind discovered that many negotiators often mistakenly assume that an agent representing the other side
The PON Film Series is pleased to present:
Mediating Public Disputes on Fracking
Thursday, April 25, 2013
7:00 PM – 9:30 PM
Austin Hall 111, Harvard Law School
Free admission; public welcome. Pizza and drinks will be served.
About the event:
The Program on Negotiation invites the public to a special PON film series event on the topic of hydraulic fracturing, or
Katrin Bennhold, staff writer for the International Herald Tribune, and Paula Gutlove, Professor of Negotiation and Conflict Management Practice at the Simmons College School of Management, will present a talk on Women and Negotiation.