Diplomatic negotiations often happen “behind” the table, and negotiators may need to adjust on the fly to reach mutually agreeable deals in international negotiation.
Diplomatic negotiations can happen among countries, as you might expect, but also among business entities. Among the many diplomacy and negotiation skills required in international negotiation, business negotiators need to be able to size each other up accurately, taking into account cultural, organizational, and other differences.
To succeed in diplomatic negotiations, it can be beneficial to involve a team of negotiators. However, teams should not be built around close friendships. Instead, the best team may be one made up of people with diverse skills who have worked together before (and even clashed from time to time).
Be aware, as well, that if the other team detects chaos and conflict within your ranks, they are liable to take advantage. To get your team on the same page, spend ample preparation time negotiating key roles, discussing substance, and confronting any rivalries or differences of opinion head-on.
Understand, too that you may need to identify and work to overcome challenges on your counterpart’s side of the table. Many diplomatic negotiations hinge on relationships diplomats forged across the table—and behind the scenes. Prior to scheduled negotiating sessions, diplomats often advise one another on statements and actions that might win over key players at the table. Some even go so far as to aid their counterparts in preparing the message they will deliver to their constituents to announce a tentative agreement.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, U.S. president George H. W. Bush and his secretary of state, James Baker, were eager to win international support for German reunification and German membership in NATO. But Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev faced strong opposition to these measures from members of his own Communist Party. Both … Read More
At a January press conference last year, German chancellor Angela Merkel dangled a carrot in front of Russian president Vladimir Putin: the possibility of a summit in Kazakhstan aimed at easing the Ukraine crisis, to be attended by her and the leaders of France and Ukraine. That carrot, however, was dangling from a significant string.
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Imagine that you’re the American representative of a U.S. food company, and you’re hoping to procure a new ingredient for several of your products from a German company. A representative from the company is flying in to meet with you. Do you expect your German counterpart to behave differently than the Americans you typically deal … Read More
As the US presidential primary season heats up for both parties, it helps to take a look back at the 2008 US presidential election and the win-win coalition forged between Barack Obama and his then-rival, Hillary Clinton. As this example demonstrates, if carefully managed, disagreements can lead to better results than you might expect.
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Check out this freely available video of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and his Peace Advisory Team as they discuss lessons learned from the Colombian peace process negotiations with the FARC guerrillas.
The civil war in Colombia lasted 52 years, taking the lives of at least 220,000 people and displacing up to seven million civilians. In … Read More
When parties can trade on their preferences across different issues, they reduce the need to haggle over price and percentages. But are there ways to avoid conflict in other types of negotiation?
To find ways to avoid conflict, especially deep-seated conflicts, and reach agreement with adversaries, former U.S. secretary of state Madeleine Albright advises close observation … Read More
In 2020, grounded by the Covid-19 pandemic, international diplomats accustomed to traveling from capital to capital found themselves stuck in a never-ending stream of videoconferences. To take a number of diplomacy examples, the G7, the G20, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank all met online, reduced to tiny faces on a screen. The … Read More
Business negotiators sometimes face the difficult question of whether to negotiate with someone they believe to be immoral, untrustworthy, or otherwise undesirable as a negotiating partner. In his book Bargaining with the Devil: When to Negotiate, When to Fight (Simon & Schuster, 2011), Program on Negotiation chair Robert Mnookin offers negotiation advice on the complex … Read More
Few negotiators can imagine negotiation scenarios more stressful than the kinds of crisis negotiations the New York City Police Department’s Hostage Negotiation Team undertake. But police negotiation techniques employed by the New York City Police Department’s Hostage Negotiations Team (HNT) in high-stakes, high-pressure crisis negotiation situations, outlined in an article from Jeff Thompson and Hugh … Read More
When you’ve made progress on certain issues but remain stymied on others in a negotiation, it’s time to take a hard look at what’s standing between you and a mutually acceptable deal. Professor Robert Mnookin of Harvard Law School and his colleagues at Stanford University have created a catalog of common dealmaking barriers to agreement, … Read More
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s indirect approach to diplomatic negotiations with the People’s Republic of China over political dissdent Chen Guangcheng demonstrates the power of adaptability at the bargaining table, especially when dealing with a counterpart from a different culture or who may speak a different language.
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Among the many diplomacy and negotiation skills required in international negotiation, business negotiators need to be able to size each other up accurately, taking into account cultural, organizational, and other differences. To capitalize on the benefits of diplomacy, they also need to be able to present a united front. Those diplomacy and negotiation skills came … Read More
Learn how and when to engage in appropriate cultural traditions when negotiating with counterparts from a different culture. In this article we offer negotiation tips for overcoming cultural barriers in negotiation and present additional articles drawn from negotiation research that may be of benefit to negotiators who need to improve their international negotiation skills.
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When disputes arise between international negotiators, sometimes a simple gesture of reciprocity can turn a boiling conflict into an amicable resolution. In this article the Program on Negotiation explores how a “simple handshake” between the leaders of Japan and the People’s Republic of China helped ease long-held tensions between the two countries.
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When tensions rise between parties, the temptation to escalate commitment to a specified position can be overwhelming—and the likelihood that negotiations will resolve the dispute becomes increasingly slim.
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Great Negotiator Award winner and former United States trade representative (1997-2001) to Japan and China, Ambassador Charlene Barshefsky visited Harvard Law School to speak with students in HLS Clinical Professor Robert Bordone’s Advanced Negotiations Workshop course on October 3.
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Adapted from “Closing the Deal,” by Michael Wheeler (professor, Harvard Business School), first published in the Negotiation newsletter.
You’ve followed the negotiation guidebooks to a T, uncovered the parties’ key interests, brainstormed creative solutions, and even developed good rapport with your counterpart. You’ve done everything right…but you still don’t have agreement.
How do you turn the other … Read More
The Program on Negotiation’s 2010 Great Negotiator Award was given to former Finnish President, Martti Ahtisaari, for his many significant achievements in the fields of negotiation and diplomacy. He was central to the Namibian independence negotiations in the late 1980s. He also served as chief United Nations negotiator to Kosovo from 2005-2006, and was instrumental … Read More