Learning The Soft Skills – The Three Phases Of Negotiation
The Oxford Dictionary provides a good, basic definition of “negotiation,” simply defining it as a “discussion aimed at reaching an agreement.” Another more, specific definition is that negotiation is a “dialogue between two or more people or parties intended to reach a beneficial outcome over one or more issues where a conflict exists concerning at least one of these issues.” Scholars describe the process in different ways. They divide the negotiation process into various stages, including anywhere from three to five phases.
The California Desert Trial Academy treats the “art” of negotiation as a soft skill. Soft skills are those skills that complement the hard skills learned as the substantive law. Soft skills are a necessary complement to the hard skills. They combine social, personal, and analytical skills to enable workers to succeed in the workplace, work effectively and cooperatively with co-workers, perform to optimal levels, and achieve short-and long-term goals.
The issues subject to any negotiation must be ascertained and understood clearly. The initial phase of negotiation understandably involves the collection of information and learning as much as possible about the present issue or problem. What is the best way to resolve the problem? Is there an elegant solution? It is must also be ascertained what information is needed from the opposing side.
Not only must negotiators evaluate their leverage, but the leverage of the other party. Once this analysis is complete, what may be done to enhance leverage? What may be done to diminish the other side’s leverage? A negotiation is not without its costs. The budget of any negotiation must be discussed as soon as possible to avoid later conflict. There are many potential choices for enhancing leverage, such as subpoenaing and deposing witnesses, adding parties to a lawsuit, or hiring experts. These choices will likely be difficult unless a client has a deep pocket and unlimited resources.
Next, it must be determined if the opposing side will negotiate in a cooperative or adversarial manner. If the latter, it may be necessary to consider employing a mediator. What type of negotiation is expected? Will it be highly competitive, cooperative, or something unexpected and unusual?
Finally, during the initial stage, a negotiation plan must be formulated that provides flexibility and the ability to adapt the goals and techniques of negotiation when discussions do not seem to be leading toward a favorable resolution.
At some point, negotiators must present their offer. What is the best offer that can justifiably be made? Should this be made as an initial offer or should it be made later as a counteroffer? As mentioned previously, negotiators must be prepared to adjust their plan of negotiation when responding to something unexpected.
Negotiators must not only consider their tactics but the tactics of their opponent. To what extent is the negotiator willing to make concessions? How will he or she make these concessions? As the negotiation proceeds, it is crucial to be aware of ways to compromise and formulate creative solutions.
Even if an agreement is made, the negotiation is not over. Which party will prepare the final agreement? It is important to prepare a closing checklist to ensure that any agreement is inclusive of the client’s interests and needs.
In conclusion, a good definition of “negotiation” that may fit well into a legal context is that it “is an interactive communication process that may take place whenever we want something from someone else or another person wants something from us.” No person, let alone, lawyer, wants to receive an ultimatum when attempting to resolve some issue of contention. Inflexibility must be countered with negotiation to affect a compromise and meet the needs of all parties involved.
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