Conflict Management in Negotiation: Training with the Enemy

Negotiation Skills to Help Reap the Benefits of Collaboration at the Bargaining Table

By on / Conflict Resolution

Adapted from “Training with the Enemy,” first published in the June 2009 issue of the Negotiation newsletter.

Negotiators trained in collaborative methods often complain that their counterparts have trouble adopting a cooperative mindset.

When you’re negotiating with hard bargainers, difficult people,” or those who want to wrap up an agreement as quickly as possible, it can be a struggle to convince them of the merits of working together.

Conflict Management and Negotiation

In Built to Win, Hallam Movius and Lawrence Susskind offer a novel solution to this dilemma: invite the other side to participate in negotiation training with you. In one instance of joint labor negotiation training, union and management teams that were preparing to face off united for negotiation workshops. Together, the teams learned key concepts and practiced their skills in a low-pressure setting.

The negotiations that followed were far less contentious and much more creative than their previous encounters at the bargaining table. You might worry that your trade secrets and weaknesses would be exposed during such sessions. Yet parties need not focus on the actual details of their impending talks. Instead, by training with hypothetical cases (that preferably cover the same kinds of issues they usually encounter), negotiators can take a step back and imagine talks in a new way.

Related Article: Conflict Resolution and Negotiation Across Cultures – Business negotiators dealing with international negotiating counterparts are well aware of the many nuances that can accompany business negotiations with negotiators from different cultures and backgrounds. Research shows that dealmaking negotiations across different cultures tends to produce worse outcomes than those negotiations between negotiators of similar cultures and backgrounds. Negotiators bring different perspectives to the bargaining table regardless of the nature of the negotiation, but the differences in perspectives between two negotiators from different cultures can hamper opportunities for value creation and integrative bargaining solutions. These types of cultural misunderstandings typically occur for two reasons.


In our FREE special report from the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School – The New Conflict Management: Effective Conflict Resolution Strategies to Avoid Litigation – renowned negotiation experts uncover unconventional approaches to conflict management that can turn adversaries into partners.


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