What is a Multiparty Negotiation?
Multiparty negotiation offers considerable benefits. Most notably more opportunities for making tradeoffs and creating value than are usually found in bilateral negotiations.
What is a multiparty negotiation? They are more common than you may realize. Think of department heads dividing up scarce resources, or a group of consumers launching a class-action lawsuit.
More than just the increased number of parties at the table, there are key differences in how negotiators a manage two party versus a multiparty negotiation. For example, power disparities can be exacerbated in multiparty negotiations.
There are also unpredictable factors. Sometimes groups cohere, reaching novel solutions to nagging problems, and sometimes infighting causes them to collapse.
Three issues in particular can make a multiparty negotiation more complex than two-party talks: (1) coalition formation, (2) process-management issues, and (3) the fluctuating nature of each party’s best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA).
As the number of parties increases, BATNA calculations and resulting considerations of possible settlements takes on a kaleidoscopic quality. In a multiparty negotiation, you must recalculate your BATNA every time you imagine a new coalition that might strand you on the outside of an agreement.
By preparing for these differences in negotiating strategy, you will be well positioned to thrive in your next multiparty negotiation.
How does that happen?
Lobby for support from key constituents from the start. Rather than just talking to the usual players, reach out to those whose support you will need before, during, and after your negotiation.
Have each side choose a representative with a proven track record for evenhandedness and collaboration, then have these representatives lead the negotiating process together.
Work together on a draft agreement. This collaboration can improve the odds of finding common ground and closing the deal in a multiparty negotiation.
Discover how to manage even the most complex negotiations with this free special report, Managing Multiparty Negotiations, from Harvard Law School.
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