Negotiation is defined by the Macquarie Dictionary (1998) as ‘to confer (with another) with a view to agreement’. There are no formal rules governing how these negotiations are to be conducted, although there are culturally accepted styles or approaches for doing so.

What negotiation and conflict have in common?

The obvious common denominator in negotiation and conflict is they both involve a relationship with at least one other person. Some of the things a counsellor should be aware of when teaching a client negotiation skills as part of the conflict resolution process is that when a person enters into a negotiation or they find themselves in conflict with another person, the outcomes they and the other person desire appear to be diametrically opposed.

Otherwise there would not be a conflict or need for serious negotiation (Mindtools, 2005). A counsellor should consider the following about negotiation skills training:

  1. Determine how much the parties invested (i.e. time, money, emotion, energy). This will help establish whether the outcome is achievable and whether a negotiation will be successful.
  2. The difference between a conflict situation and entering a negotiation is that the tension levels are already high when in conflict and relationships may have already been damaged.
  3. It is common that both parties see themselves as ‘right’, and want to prove their ‘rightness’ to each other. In this sense every negotiation has potential for conflict.
  4. If both parties maintain their position of ‘rightness’, there is little opportunity for resolution or for either party to achieve their desired outcomes. Relationships may be irretrievably damaged and neither party wins.

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The following are common ways individuals seek to resolve conflict:

Competing is a style in which one’s own needs are advocated over the needs of others. It relies on an aggressive style of communication, low regard for future relationships, and the exercise of coercive power. Those using a competitive style tend to seek control over a discussion, in both substance and ground rules. Competing results in responses that increase the level of threat.

Accommodating, also known as smoothing, is the opposite of competing. Persons using this style yield their needs to those of others, trying to be diplomatic. They tend to allow the needs of the group to overwhelm their own, which may not ever be stated, as preserving the relationship is seen as most important.

Avoiding is a common response to the negative perception of conflict. “Perhaps if we don’t bring it up, it will blow over,” we say to ourselves. But, generally, all that happens is that feelings get pent up, views go unexpressed, and the conflict festers until it becomes too big to ignore. Because needs and concerns go unexpressed, people are often confused, wondering what went wrong in a relationship.

Compromising is an approach to conflict in which people gain and give in a series of tradeoffs. While satisfactory, compromise is generally not satisfying. We each remain shaped by our individual perceptions of our needs and don’t necessarily understand the other side very well. We often retain a lack of trust and avoid risk-taking involved in more collaborative behaviours.

Collaborating is the pooling of individual needs and goals toward a common goal. Often called “win-win problem-solving,” collaboration requires assertive communication and cooperation in order to achieve a better solution than either individual could have achieved alone. It offers the chance for consensus, the integration of needs, and the potential to exceed the “budget of possibilities” that previously limited our views of the conflict. It brings new time, energy, and ideas to resolve the dispute meaningfully.

Source: (Academic Leadership Support)

By understanding each style and its consequences, the results of our behaviours in various situations are obvious.