What is Conflict Resolution

man_woman_fighting_sm.jpgConflict between people, any two people or larger groups of people is a fact of life. We are different people. We have differing wants and needs. This means our goals and objectives are in conflict most of the time; even when we are on the same team. Conflict is normal and healthy as long as it can be resolved preserving the relationship of the people involved.

Conflict exists within families, among peers, friends and neighbors. It exists at work, church, school and simply along the street among strangers. Conflict resolution is the process by which we handle the conflict in our lives.

There are many ways we try to resolve conflict. By surrendering, running away, fighting, litigation of filing a complaint with the human resource department. Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), AKA conflict resolution, is more civilized than violence and typically cheaper and quicker than litigation.

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Common forms of conflict resolution include negotiation, a discussion among two or more people with the goal of reaching an agreement, mediation, a voluntary and confidential process in which a neutral third-party facilitator helps people discuss difficult issues and negotiate an agreement, and arbitration, a process in which a neutral third-party acts as a judge of the dispute and decides the outcome for the parties.

But conflict resolution need not be so formal. Essential we each resolve conflict throughout every day of our lives. We don't consider our parents, siblings, bosses, employees, teachers and students to be warring factions but the conflicts with these people in our lives can be far more complex that some territorial skirmish between nation states.

When resolving our personal conflicts becomes more than we can handle there are some approaches than offer help. This assistance can be provided by your church, school, employer or even another family member. But if you want something a little more formal, consider:

Persuasion Techniques
Evaluation by a Third-Party
This involves enlisting a unbiased attorney, arbitrator or other professional to review the situation and try to facilitate a resolution by explaining the cost of litigation and likely outcome if the case. The parties then can assess if it is worth litigating or would they be better off just settling and moving on.

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Peer Referendum
This approach uses a common and respected friend, associate or family member to both of the parties is asked to help resolve the dispute. By having another person hear the complaints of both sides and offer a fresh objective the angst of one-on-one fighting can be mitigated and solutions struck.

It is important to remember that conflict is a normal and necessary part of any healthy relationship. Life would be far too boring if no one disagreed with you or objected to something you were doing. And how would we ever learn anything new if we were never challenged by our teachers, parents or employers?

How we deal with conflict in large part determines the quality of our lives. When mismanaged relationships can be tested and even harmed. By developing effective conflict resolution techniques and skills your personal and professional lives should prosper.

Related Content
Ten Persuasion Techniques
What to Avoid When Negotiating
The Art of Persuasion

How to Negotiate

Why do we negotiate?

Is it our avarice and greed that compels us to try to best our fellow man or woman? It it the need to win? What is it in some of our psyches that motivates the quest to size the upper hand, to compel obedience, to prevail?

Negotiation stems not from avarice and greed but from our primal instinct to survive and thrive.

Man, alone and on his own, would fend of other men and scrounge for roots and berries while looking for the hapless female to take back to his cave. His negotiations were against his environment to see it though the night and, if fortunate, to seed a child. Life was simple if short-lived.

Those fortunate enough to find unprotected females soon learned the challenges of heading up small clans. Gathered around a small fire our ancient ancestors would find ways to work together to share the tasks of protecting and providing for their small clan and, most important, growing it. The size of the clan gave it the strength to find more food, work together to fell larger beasts and generally survive yet another night.

As clans grew and became more numerous, clans started to interact. The result was initially conflict based as they fought one another out of fear and distrust protecting their turf and their women and children. The currency of these negotiations was rather basic: death or life. Victory was clear.

In spite of their attempts to kill all outsiders who threatened them, eventually clans began to merge and learned to get along with each other. Civilization was sprung and these new entities did what....carried on the same habits as the original clans. They feared and distrusted other feudal states and tribes and did their best to eradicate any who came into their arena of influence. But commerce did emerge in spite of their baser instincts.

Times have not changed a lot. Be it 21st century nation-states or vast religions spanning the world, fear and distrust are the sentiments that prevail. But the incentives that drive those feelings are based on the need to provide and protect. So there is a balance of good and evil at play.

We negotiate to preserve the value of what we have achieved. In the dawn of man's existence the clan that learned how to raise and harvest produce sought to trade it for what they needed in a fashion that they benefited as much as possible from the exchange. Bartering quickly gave way to negotiating when the concept of currency was introduced. Currency gave a standard of value to be applied universally. Now barterers has the ability to try to increase the value of their labor by getting more currency for their product than bartering it for the neighbor's pig.

But currency is not the root of negotiating. It is only the measure. Currency is not solely monetary. Currency can be in the form of product, services, coinage or even promises of future action. Currency, in a negotiation, can be as illusive as good will.

Currency is what the negotiators decide it is and is unique to the negotiation at hand. In any negotiation, understanding the many dynamics of the currency at play is essential in the creation of value from the exchange. To negotiate properly one must consider all aspects of the situation and leverage those commodities to his or her advantage.

Properly done, the outcome will be far better than simply accepting the pig for three bags of potatoes.

Negotiating Your Bottom Line

"If you want something done right, do it yourself."

Beware of hiring someone to negotiate for you. Too often hired negotiators are little more than mediators. Their reward stems from the reaching an agreement rather than the actual terms of the agreement.

Companies who hire real estate negotiators and reward them based on performance are asking for trouble. The very people who should be protecting the operating viability of the company are rewarded for something else, making the deal. People are human and incentives are important. Attorneys pose a different challenge to their clients. Some attorneys enjoy the process, the fight. They would rather fight to the end then compromise and settle. This is good for their egos and billable hours!

Knowing your bottom line is important. The bottom line is the point that you should either be prepared to walk away or to start bluffing seriously. In most cases, you should walk away. The deal was not meant to happen. When you walk away the other party may reach out to bring you back to the table. That is when you know they want the deal more than you do and that you might be able to agree on your terms.

Do not confuse goals with bottom lines. Your goals are what you want to achieve while your bottom line is what you need to achieve.

Whether you are negotiating over money, land, or any other commodity, interest, belief or service it has a personal value to you. Before you relinquish it, you want to establish that value so you don't sacrifice it for less. Your bottom line is not your goal or objective. It is the worst case scenario that you would accept. Anything less and you would refuse.

Your bottom line has little to do with your cost in acquiring the item. It is the lowest price you would be willing to accept. This might include among other things:

• The actual acquisition cost.

• The interest on the money invested while you owned it or the "carry cost".

• The value of improvements you made to the item.

• The fdiscounted uture value you think the item may have were you to keep it.

• Any other cost you expended to acquire, hold or sell the item.

This is not your asking price. That is negotiable. This may not even be your non-negotiable bottom line. This is your frame of reference when setting your bottom-line before the negotiating gets hot and heavy. In the throes of the bid and ask you do not want to have to decide a that time what your bottom line is. It is too easy to miss something or make a mistake when calculating under duress. Do it in the quiet of the preparatory period when emotions are in check and you have ready access to files and records.


Manage Negotiations Like Dysfunctional Small Groups

We all know the saying “the best defense is a strong offense”. This is especially true in negotiations. Attitude and conviction of purpose can trump facts and reality. If you feel you should win you demeanor will reflect your passion and confidence. This is very convincing.

Bartering is about trading between equals. Negotiating is all about leadership. Attaining your goal requires your convincing another person to do something they prefer not to do. In the work environment managers entice workers to come to work and perform to certain standards. They do this through offering to pay the employee. This gets reasonable performance. To get exceptional performance managers must develop and apply leadership techniques. Negotiators must do the same. They must motivate exceptional performance on the part of another person or group.

If you don’t need the help of others there would be no reason to negotiate. You would simply do what you wanted to do with pure power.

In any dispute those involved make up a small group and are subject to traditional group dynamics. Groups need to be lead or managed. Filling this role is what makes mediators effective at resolving disputes. Negotiators who take the initiative to become informal group leaders are most likely to have the best track record of achieving their goals.

Those involved in negotiations essentially are dysfunctional small groups. Negotiators should look at the various people around the table as a small but dysfunctional group in need of leadership.

The challenge is to motivate the group as a whole to focus on mutually beneficial goals.

Feelings Matter in a Negotiation

No one can win every negotiation. Many suggest making each negotiation a "Win/Win" situation. The reality is that there is always a winner and a loser.

It seems to be a more realistic strategy to seek a solution that allows both parties to come away with acceptable terms. Doing this provides each person enough incentive, positive or negative, to support and live up to any agreement that is reached.

Noteworthy is the mention of positive or negative incentives. Pain and fear are strong incentives. So is deprivation. The result of a negotiation need not be mutually beneficial. It just must result in mutual motivation to live up to the agreement.

This mutual incentive is the basis of every relationship whether it is in a marriage, friendship, or business setting. If you remove the incentive for either, the agreement may fail, and survival of the relationship may be jeopardized.

The feelings of losers must be considered. Over and above the incentive they may have to keep the agreement, the fact that they lost can breed feelings of resentment and ill will. In a close, personal relationship you do not want to win the battle but lose the war.

The practiced negotiator will always seek ways to make the other side feel good at the end of the negotiation. They know the relationship is often more important than the issue at hand.

Managing from the Bottom Line

A Ruby-Throated Hummingbird must consume twice it’s body weight in food each day. This is not a goal or objective. It is the bottom line!

Mediators and negotiators by definition have different bottom lines. While both are seeking to reach an agreement, that is the sole and absolute goal of the mediator. He has no vested interest in the terms of such an agreement.

Knowing your bottom line is perhaps the most important aspect of being a good negotiator. The bottom line, the minimum that you will accept, is the point that you must decide whether to continue to try to hold things together or simply walk away from the opportunity.

In most cases, this is the point where you become willing to bluff. Bluffing is a last resort tactic that should be reserved until all you have at risk is failure itself.

Share your bottom line with your co-negotiators. If you are uncomfortable doing this, you should consider replacing the person causing the concern. A team is only as strong as its weakest link. Your concern about being totally transparent with everyone on your team tells you something about the team or your management style.

Do not confuse your goal with your bottom line. They are vastly different. Your goals are what you want to achieve while your bottom line is what you need to achieve.

Negotiators use Agendas, Hidden and Apparent

There are two types of agendas. Those that are public and set the course of a meeting and those that are hidden and guide the actual progress of the session. Uncovering hidden agendas is an important aspect in any negotiation or mediation.

It is the hidden agendas that truly impact how a settlement conference will proceed.

Controlling a meeting is key to controlling a negotiation. Managing the agenda establishes this control. Mediators garner their power as they control what happens, when it happens and where it happens during a settlement conference. They have the ability to call for caucus sessions, quiz both sides, and dictate certain rules. This often gives them the cloak of authority to get the parties to move toward reconciliation.

Hidden agendas, on the other hand, are what skilled negotiators use to manage the process as the informal group leader.

There are likely many hidden agendas at play during any negotiating session. Those of the primary negotiators and those of the other participants in the room. Each person is likely to have a personal agenda that differs slightly from their own teammates. Uncovering and capitalizing on the disparity of these agendas can be useful to a negotiator.

How does one uncover another's hidden agenda? By being a good detective:

1. Ask questions soliciting the other person's needs and wants.

2. Ask follow-up questions designed to cross check previous answers.

3. Seek similar responses from other members of the other negotiating team.

4. Feel free to question the responses.

5. Press to discover why the individual sitting across from you feels that way; as opposed to why his company or client may feel a certain way.

6. Identify if there are personal needs that are in conflict or amplify the stated objectives of the otherside.

7. Seek to discover if the real decision maker is at the table or available to be reached for input or decisions.

8. Gather and digest the responses to create the 'fabric' of the other side's basic needs and stated wants regarding the situation.

9. Observe non-verbal reaction that may indicate responses are less than forthright.

Negotiation is far more than simply sitting at the table and exchanging proposals. It is the art form of learning enough about the other person to be able to engage him or her in a dialogue that makes them want to work with you. Without absolute power, your primary agenda is to uncover enough about the other person to be able to manage the discussion toward satisfying your needs.

A Negotiator Values Good Advice

Advice is cheap. No matter the cost, it can be extremely valuable to a negotiator!

Before sitting down to negotiate anything of substance it is worthwhile to conduct a little research about the person with whom you will be meeting. Seeking the advice of others is part of the due diligence aspect of negotiation preparation. How you handle that advice marks the difference between an impressionable novice and a veteran negotiator.

The negotiator's job is to qualify and verify the advice received. Often information is biased or flawed and can be misleading. Remember, the information passed along has been filtered by the other person and may be biased based on their experience. The task is to validate input garnered from numerous sources. If this information is deemed pertinent to the task at hand, mentally file it away to use when appropriate. If something is learned that is disturbing, seek collaborative input. Never trust a single source even if that person is respected. If they lost a fight or were embarrassed by the outcome, they are more likely to 'bend' reality to their liking than to relay the facts of the situation dispassionately.

Seek out advice by asking peers about their past experiences with the person or company, asking other people who have negotiated with them, or even asking their assistants or co-workers about them. Often one's hobbies reflect on the type of negotiator they are apt to be. A sailor, as contrasted to a power boat owner, is likely to be much more process oriented while the power boater will be focused on the end result.

Solicit input from as many sources as possible and distill it to salient impressions. Then, when actually meeting the other person, during the initial getting-acquainted conversation, observe and validate if the impressions seem to fit.

Train yourself to be observant and reflective to fully develop your negotiating skills.


Technology and Human Communication

21st century communication tools have dramaticaly changed the negotiating process. We live in the communication era complete with faxes, mobile phones, laptops, PCs, PDAs that retrieve and send e-mails, the Internet, DSL and modem connections, video conferences, and pagers. And that is today. Tomorrow there will be even more ways to stay in touch or communicate.

We are trained to be readily accessible and available on demand with nano-second technology. It is almost a distinction to be the most-available executive on a team. Our generation expects instant gratification. That includes responsiveness. This immediacy is not necessarily good for negotiations. Like a fine wine, some negotiations require time to come to their full bloom.

Negotiating is an art and art should not be rushed.

The compressed time of today's electronically connected world takes the finesse out of negotiating. If you want to barter, succumb to nano-second technology. If you want to negotiate, require face-to-face meetings and save the time-saving technology for procedural matters.

There are times to use technology. But make sure you use it to your advantage and don't succumb to the expectations of others to do so just to make them happy. You are entitled to your privacy. You are also entitled to time your responses to your liking.

- E-mail is a great vehicle for quick, casual communication. It is no replacement for negotiating terms unless you have established a rapport with the other person and know that the essential negotiations are either resolved or will be handled at a future meeting. When responding to an e-mail consider that the timing of a response sends a distinct message. A prompt response can indicate eagerness to settle, desperation, or a lack of options on your part. A delayed response generally indicates the issue is not one of your priorities, you have other options, or that you are not very happy with the terms.

- Facsimiles and e-mail attached documents can move the documentation process along swiftly. This is to your advantage when you have made a good deal and don't want time to erode that agreement. But if you have yet to agree and need to gather additional information, choose the traditional method of transmitting documents, the U.S. Mail, to give you time to finish your research or explore other options.

- The Internet is an invaluable research tool. Use it to research your opponent. Assume that he or she will be doing the same thing. Make sure you don't have too much information about yourself on the 'net'.

- On screen reading is fine for the news. Don't scan through documents on the screen. Print and read important documents. Take your time and consider each important paragraph.

You need not give others your e-mail address or fax numbers even if asked. That information allows others to invade your privacy. Provide it only to those you want to have priority access to you.

Examples of Leadership Skills

Leaders emerge from the ranks of men. Why they become leaders when others do not probably has been studied and observed since men and women began to merge into tribes and clans.

Newsweek ran a story about George Washington in the May, 23, 2005 issue. They observed, "What was the hold he (George Washington) had over men? There was nothing foreordained about george Washington's success a general. But he saw things as they were, and he saw himself as he was. As subject as any man to moments of doubt and uncertainty, he managed to summon the self-confidence necessary to persevere amid diseaster. He was committed heart and soul to the cause, resilient, open to new ideas and seldom failed to learn from his mistakes. Through the often dark year of 1776, he would not only overcome his own fears but help his countrymen conquer theirs, too - a supreme act of providential leadership."

To negotiate well one must lead those involved, especially their opponents, to reach a mutually viabable agreement.

Being passionate about the negotiation establishes one's conviction and commitment to the process. No argument is properly delivered without conviction and passion. If you are not prepared or if you do not believe in what you are asking it will be evident unless you are very, very fortunate. Don't rely on luck to see you through.

When you enter the room do so with zest. This energy is contagious. It is a positive force. It shows that you are confident, focused, and passionate about what you are about to do; fight for your cause. It bgins to set the attitude of the small group thay will have ot work together.

Develop ways to telegraph this personal attitude:

- Check your tiredness or personal problems at the door. Actually take a personal moment before entering the room to consciously do this. If you are with a team, step aside to make sure you are mentally ready to enter. If you are leading the group, you should do this before even meeting up with your teammates.

- Enter the room boldly. Make an entrance, don't just enter.

- Make it a big deal to meet someone foe the first time. Recognize personally each of the people in the room. Pause when shaking hands and mentally register the person's name and facial features. Make good, firm, direct, in-control eye contact with each person observing how they react.

- Make it a point to see if everyone has everything they need, even if it is not your office. Take control of the environment. Be assertive in seeing to the needs of others.

When everyone is ready to start the negotiaitons, reinforce your positive attitude with a positive statement. Something a simple as "I'm ready to do this!" sends a very clear message across the table.

Understanding the dynamics of influence or leadership will help you to initiate and maintain control over the discussions. Resolving conflict requires garnering the support of two or more opposing forces to move forward together. Leadership can play a large part in this process.

Corporate Team Building in Negotiations

There are times when having a negotiating team is appropriate.

In corporate environments this is often the norm. You have the executive responsible for solving or managing the situation, the corporate counsel who may be involved or may enlist out-house counsel to litigate the matter, the staff insurance or risk manager, and the insurance carrier's representative. This core team may then add professionals or experts depending on the complexity of the matter. There may also be other corporate representatives involved.

In effect all corporate negotiations are team negotiations no matter who arrives at the settlement conference.

Like any other aspect of negotiations, teams need to be properly managed.


If you are heading up a corporate team, you are responsible for that team no matter to whom the individuals report. You are responsible for its preparation, research, and the role each member will play. This is especially important if there are 'professionals' on your team. Too often clients delegate the preparation and research aspects of a settlement conference to their legal staff. This would be fine if the issues were legal details. But when it comes to other issues and overall strategy, the responsibility should be vested solely with the lead negotiator.

You need to build your team based on the needs of the occasion and not the desires of political factions within the company. Representation at each meeting is not a requirement for each member of the team, especially if that individual proves disruptive to the settlement process. In establishing the team, make sure everyone knows their role, is prepared, and most importantly, that you have set the goals and objectives for the team.

If you are not used to working with the members of your corporate team, take steps to establish your role as team manager.

Corporate Team Building Tactics:

- Welcome them to the planning session and indicate your appreciation of what they can lend to the team.

- Source the pecking order of the individual team members and see if there are potentially conflicting internal goals and objectives to be resolved.

- Discuss with each new member of the team their role, qualifications, and specific areas of expertise.

- Ferret out areas where the other team members appear to not agree fully with you. Monitor closely the non-verbal reactions to the discussions to note any unvoiced discord. You want your team to be focused and mutually supportive.

- Collectively establish the goal of the team and the negotiating parameters.

- Prior to each formal negotiating or settlement session meet with the team doing the negotiating and establish the goals and objectives of the day's discussions.

- Decide prior to meeting with the other side if you want to reveal your leadership role during the meeting or let someone else lead the dialogue. There are times when it is beneficial to use a straw man while you observe the interaction of the other team.

Negotiating teams are no different than other teams. They need good leadership. They need direction. And they need to be managed so they function efficiently and constructively.


Business Management Skills in Negotiations

In any dispute those involved make up a small group and are subject to traditional group dynamics. Groups need to be lead or managed. Filling this role is what makes mediators effective at resolving disputes.

Similarly, negotiators who take the initiative to become informal group leaders are most likely to have the best track record of achieving their goals.

Negotiations essentially are dysfunctional small groups. All small groups need to be lead to achieve their goals. Group leaders establish objectives and set a course to obtain the desired results. Negotiators should look at the various people at the table, from both sides, as a small but dysfunctional group in need of leadership.

The challenge is to motivate the group as a whole to focus on mutually beneficial goals.

Mediators, trained to manage such small groups, have the benefit of being assigned the role of leader. Negotiators must acquire the role through application of management skills to capture the respect and attention of their opponents. Demonstrating expertise, professionalism and passion are common traits of strong business leaders. These traits also serve the negotiator well when establishing a position of group authority.

A manager and a mediator have their positions established by others. Negotiators have to earn theirs without directly confronting the other person. Collaborative managerial styles are excellent means of subtly establishing a role of leadership. Such styles include:

- Establish a Common Goal: By giving each person a vested interest in the outcome of the negotiations you establish a common cause that should underscore the reasons behind each collective decision the parties make. Identifying a common goal is the first step towards establishing an informal, small group which can be lead.

- Parity of Power: By recognizing the power bases of the parties, you can dissolve misconceptions about who has the most power and create an environment where both parties need each other to resolve the situation.

- Persuasion: Mediators are masters of group persuasion. They must get warring parties to set aside their differences and reach an accord. Most people are used to being told what is right to do. A mediator is unable to make the decision for the group. He does not function as a judge or jury. He must encourage each of the parties to set aside their animosity and strive to work out a solution. He may have to persuade a recalcitrant party to let go of their emotional baggage and focus just on the settlement terms. He can do this by re-stating the other person's position or proposal in a more favorable light. He may remind the disgruntled party of the time and expense of pursuing the matter in court and point out that settling during mediation might cost less in the long run. What the mediator needs to do is get the party to soften an absolute rejection so some dialogue can start.

Making others want to do things they don't initially want to do is what successful mediators and negotiators do. Hitting the other person over the head with facts and demands is a good approach if you have power and authority on your side. If not, you must resort to the basics: inform, educate, and enlist.

Inform - By informing the other person of salient facts, tangible information and logical arguments, you are providing reasons for the person to reconsider their position without losing face.

Entice - By creating alternative and/or innovative incentives for the other person to reconsider their position, you are expanding the negotiating arena to include other commodities that may make an otherwise untenable accord viable.

Enlist - By seeking the other person's help in solving the dilemma, you are cashing in emotional concessions in return for advancing your cause.

All three approaches are basic management tactics designed to get the other person to do what you need him to do. They work as well in the negotiating arena as they do in the business environment. Essentially they are non-threatening management styles designed to motivate another person to action.

Being able to capture a leadership role within a negotiating small group environment is a management challenge. If you can achieve it, you will be in an excellent position to also broker a settlement or construct a viable accord.


Organizational Communication

Communicating is a key aspect of conflict resolution. It occurs in all human interaction in some fashion. During any conflict listening is typically impaired. To agree, the parties need to be able to communicate effectively.

Listen: Everyone should work at developing effective, interactive listening skills. When the other person is talking, you have the chance to learn something,--if you are listening to what they are saying rather than thinking about what you are going to say.

Observe: When speaking, you are responsible for making sure the others are listening. Verify this by observing the non-verbal reactions to what you say.

Signs of discomfort at what you are saying:

- A furrowing of the brow.
- Tensing of the upper body.
- Clenching of the hands.
- A set jaw.
- Leaning forward suddenly.
- Looking away, closing a portfolio or folder, or packing a briefcase.

Most important, watch the other person's eyes. When you are pressing too hard they will harden and stop focusing on you. What you are seeing is the other persons thinking about his response or how to end the discussion rather than listening to what you are saying.

Take Responsibility: Make sure you are being heard and understood. The other person will likely have to review what was said today with others. Make it your goal that he or she be able to clearly restate your case as you intend it to be heard.

There are simple ways to keep the other person interested and attentive to you.

1. Pepper your comments with questions designed to draw them into the discussion. By being involved in the dialogue, they will have to consider what they are saying. And when they speak, it is your turn to listen. They may reveal something of value.

2. Use silence to draw their attention. Pause before an important point you are about to make and let the silence grow until they take notice. Then proceed knowing you have their attention at the moment.

3. Use questions to reinforce their understanding of what you have said. Ask their opinion of a point you just made. If they have missed the point, restate it. You won't have as good a chance to reinforce what you have said once they leave the meeting.

Once two people are focused on each other and listening, communications can become intense. A mediator, while working to get the parties to discuss their respective issues, also monitors the reactions and interjects as required to keep the tone of the exchange productive. He may also use caucus sessions to separate the parties briefly to keep them from becoming too agitated.

In managing a negotiation you typically need to serve as both a mediator and negotiator to lead the discussion towards resolution. Don't be hesitant to ask for a short break to let things cool down or to simply get up. This will break the tension and allow everyone to take a breath.

People Skills and Negotiations

Managing any group of people or even another person requires well-honed people skills. Managing the people involved in a negotiation requires exceptional ability to influence and motivate others.

As all human interaction is a form of conflict resolution, enhancing your people skills is a sure way to improve your ability to negotiate successfully.

To manage people you have to first understand them. Negotiators are people and people are individuals. To reach them through a debate of the issues it is best to present your case in terms they understand and with which they are comfortable. The time spent informally talking before a negotiating session serves the purpose of providing insights into how you might phrase your arguments. Researching the other person before the meeting may also provide information on his or her background, professional and scholastic. Talking to associates who know the person is another way to develop a dialogue strategy.

Develop a style that allows you to be assertive and not aggressive in your communication with the other person. The "3-Rs" to accomplish this are: Rehearse, Repeat, and Request feedback. To lead an informal group you must assert yourself. Being assertive does not also mean being demanding, rude and egotistical. Being assertive is a management style to enable you to control the actions of the group. In a negotiating setting, this needs to be very subtle. The 3-Rs approach is an effective way of taking control without grasping it from the other person.

The process of preparing children for life is a complicated mix of coaching, demanding, directing, disciplining, dreaming, educating, encouraging, entrusting, informing, loving, mediating, negotiating, nurturing, philosophizing, training and trusting. Unlike most management situations, it is unique in that neither party has the option to quit without devastating consequences. There are some well-known parenting situations that can help managers understand and improve their management behavior.

Parents, like all people, react when challenged. This reaction is not the best of management styles, even for parents. Among other common mistakes, parents are apt to resist allowing their child to grow and assume additional responsibility as fast as the child would like. Parents tend to thwart blatant independence at a young age by saying "No!". Unfortunately "no" creates frustration rather than redirecting activity. In a negotiation "no" has a similar impact on the atmosphere between the negotiators. It can be frustrating to the point of distraction. If your intention is not to stop the dialogue in its tracks, be judicious using the word.

Parents also tend to concede too soon and then spend the night worrying if it was the right decision, often with good reason. Negotiators who preempt the other person by negotiating against their own proposal often wish they had just been patient. Cognitive dissonance is often referred to as buyers remorse. After a negotiation you do not want the other side thinking they gave away too much. You want to make sure you have reinforced their decisions as being well made and in their best interest. By building up their egos you are cementing the deal so it will stand the test of time.

Managing others is a design on your part to influence how they will act or respond. Before getting them to act, you have to first impact how they think. Few people can be persuaded to change how they think through a verbal debate. Bring data sheets, diagrams, experts, and other tangible support for your arguments to help educate, inform and influence the other person. Remember also that attitude and setting can influence the other person's mood. Take the initiative to make the initial few moments of any meeting positive and upbeat. Make it a personal challenge to get the other person to smile at least once before sitting down to start the formal dialogue.

To create change in another person, you need to make them uncomfortable and then lead them toward a comfortable resolution. One technique used is to change the topic abruptly to throw the other person off balance. This is especially useful when the discussion is heading into 'troubled waters' for you. Use any transitional thread to shift away from the sensitive area. Most people do not want to be rude and openly object. And example of how this might be done is to interject an observation about how difficult it is to work with city planners when an aspect of the lease negotiations is going against you. There are few people involved in developing commercial properties who won't readily vent about past problems with planners or planning commissions. Use the diversion as a chance to mentally regroup and find a way around problems the other discussion presented.

Basic Management Skills in Negotiations

Any situation involving two or more people is a management opportunity. Those who take the initiative will typically prevail whether it is a physical confrontation or simply deciding which movie to see. Negotiations are only slightly more complicated management opportunities. Unlike a fight where blows are thrown, the combatants must feign civility and control. Initiative and leadership, however, are the most reliable tactics to be used to prevail.

Those involved in a dispute make up a small group and are subject to traditional group dynamics. Groups intrinsically need to be managed. This is what makes mediators effective in settling disputes. They are adept at taking control and managing the mediation process. Negotiators can benefit from learning mediating techniques. Parents, too, benefit from approaching family disputes as a group dynamic situation in which each family member has a role and voice. Using the mediation technique of inclusion to integrate everyone's needs into the solution can provide a mutually agreeable group decision.

How does one take control of an informal group?

By exerting influence and demonstrating leadership traits. In a negotiation, there are some ways to take the initiative:

- Initiate the call to arrange for the meeting.
- Host the meeting where you will have the ability to perform administrative tasks through your staff for the group.
- Prepare and present (or have on the table) an agenda for the meeting.
- Acting as the host, introduce everyone to each other and make sure they have coffee, water or anything else they may need.
- Position your pad and pen at the head of the table before the others arrive.
- Before someone else suggests it, call the meeting to order.

These seem like small things but they demonstrate your confidence, your can-do attitude, and your control of the environment. All that is left is for you to control the discussion. That is not as easy. But you will have made a good start.

Managing implies taking responsibility for the actions of others. A negotiation leader or a mediator delegates responsibilities not only to his co-negotiators, if any, but to the other side. This delegation of assignments serves not only to get the job done but also to give everyone a vested interest in the outcome. A mediator advances the process by directing and delegating the participants in a mediation. This process serves to make both parties valuable to the process, more equal in their respective statures, and, ultimately, more likely to be able to come to reach an agreement.

In a negotiation, group participation can have a similar impact. By getting both sides involved in working together, the resulting 'attitude' should be more supportive of reaching a mutually viable accord.

Two ways to get two people openly at odds to work together include:
Start with simple tasks that are unrelated to the primary issue.

1. Suggest the other person come with you to the coffee room to help get the coffee, cream and sugar.

2. Suggest methods of sharing information. "If I can explain to you how I have valued the property will you demonstrate to me your cost basis?" This is a tactic to get the parties involved in valuing a piece of real estate by working together. It calls upon each to be an expert in their own right. It also allows you to gather essential information.

Disorganized groups without leadership quickly collapse into chaos. Chaos rewards the stronger of the parties; it does not yield a negotiated settlement. Chaotic situations offer opportunities for someone to intervene and bring some order to the situation. Effective negotiators seek to control the environment and manage the process. It is better to be deciding what is going to happen next than to be told what to do.

Don't relinquish your role to another unless doing so tactically serves your ends. There are times to defer to another person to advance your cause.

Using Time as a Negotiation Tactic

Whether we are talking about one's personal or professional life, time is a precious commodity. Appreciate the time you are investing in resolving a dispute or negotiating an issue. Make sure your time is warranted before over-investing in a minor issue's resolution. Unlike money, wasted time is not recoverable. It is a limited commodity that should be wisely rationed.

In addition to the currency of a transaction, time is likely to be the second most important commodity in a settlement conference. To use time strategically it needs to be understood.

Examples of how time impacts a negotiation or settlement conference include not only the time taken to attend a conference or meeting but also the actual time of the meeting plus the preparation time, the travel time to and from the meeting, and the time to prepare and review the documents required to memorialize the meeting.

You can manage the time consumed by a settlement conference by:

- Hosting the meeting at your office. This eliminates travel time and time lost in traffic.
- Setting the agenda to keep the meeting dialogue focused.
- Allow the other party to draft the settlement documents. This allows you to only review the documents.
- Send them edits to be incorporated into the draft document.
- Establish a set time when your secretary is to interrupt your meeting for a "urgent" matter. If the meeting is not making good progress, you will have an excuse to cut it short. If progress is being made and your continued participation is warranted, you can always make the meeting a higher priority.
- Add negotiating team members to assist in the research and preparation for the meeting.

When considering the time investment of taking on a dispute, consider the lost opportunity time to work on other tasks or spend with your family or on a hobby. Time is a consumable. You can't simply go to the bank and get more. Make sure you have prioritized your activities and this dispute merits your attention.

Because time is important to others it can and should be used as a negotiating tactic.

- Extend the time to settle to force resolution: If the issue is a minor irritant for the other person, being openly willing to prolong the time it will take to settle the issue may motivate the other party to settle rather than waste additional time at the negotiating table.
- Compress the time allowed to settle: If the issue is a minor irritant for you, being openly willing to walk away leaving the matter unsettled may motivate the other party to settle rather than risk losing the opportunity. This is especially effective if you have other options and the other party does not.
- Recognize the time being spent on the matter: By acknowledging the investment in time being made by both parties to address the situation you increase its stature or value and make the process more meaningful. This helps at times to get people to become more serious in their roles and diligent in seeking to reach an accord.

Time is a valuable commodity to us all. It is often overlooked. In today's fast-paced world, time is a true commodity to be managed and used as part of any negotiation.

Problem Solving Skills and Negotiation

No one can negotiate until they understand the situation. Basically there is a problem to be solved that involves getting two or more people to agree on something. Basic problem solving is part of the skill set of any effect negotiator.

Defining a problem is critical. Often people fight over ancillary issues rather than the real problem. In a mediation the mediator takes the time to source, identify and quantify all the micro issues that create the underpinnings of the primary argument. Mediators are trained to resolve the ancillary issues so that the primary problem can be resolved.

Problem Identification Tips:

- Don't accept the obvious; seek out underlying issues or other problems. Often the other person or the parties may be unaware of the impact of these 'lesser' issues.

- Prioritize the issues and seek to resolve the minor ones first. This will create a more positive environment and may help lead to a global agreement.

- Seek to put emotional reactions in perspective. If you can diffuse any prevailing anger or distrust, you will have made a major advance toward reaching an agreement.

- Separate the "wants" from the "needs" and focus on satisfying the "needs" of each party. Often it is the "wants" that create the most separation. And they are the least important aspect of the problem once they are properly identified as "wants".

- Don't ignore or dismiss emotional needs or wants. Sometimes their satisfaction is more important to one of the parties than the monetary aspects of the situation.

Problem identification does not stop when you enter the fray. Listen carefully to what the other person is saying to identify additional irritants or issues. Listen for clues on how to satisfy a specific need using alternative consideration.

Problem solving is the meat of dispute resolution. By expanding the possible settlement options the mediator is seeking to solve the dispute by pairing unlikely party commodities so that both emerge feeling a sense of victory. Win/Win negotiating is not so much about appeasing both sides as it is about pairing needs and satisfiers so that both parties come away with more than they gave away in their minds.

Is an Enemy Required in a Negotiation?

In the September 17, 2005 edition of the Epoch Times there is an article about Sino-U.S. relations, the Storm Clouds That Cancelled the Sino-U.S. Summit Were Not from Katrina, by He Qinglian. In that article he explains the need for an adversarial relationship between the U.S. and China. "China's ever-growing military power requires that China have an "enemy" so that the military can greatly enhance its political status and increase its budget."

The Chinese government appears to need to make an enemy of the U.S. to keep control of its population. In normal life we tend to make our opponents our enemies. This is usually not the case. They just want something different than we do. Like the opportunity to make a profit or to win a point. An enemy is out to do you physical or fiscal harm. In most business negotiations that is not the intent of the parties. Divorce settlements may be different. The parties want to do damage!

It is not always productive to view your opponent as an enemy. One makes enemies and friends through their actions. Both your enemies and friends will talk behind your back. Realize just as you seek background information on others before a meeting, they will likely do the same. If the feedback they get about you is too adverse, you may never be able to have an open, productive dialogue.

Dangers of being viewed as an Enemy:

-You may be prejudged.

-You may lose opportunities if viewed as an enemy or staunch adversary.

-You may have to overcome fear and hostility from a perfect stranger.

-It will take twice the effort to convert that enemy to be a friendly associate.


He Qinglian goes on to say, "A short while ago, General Zhu Chenghu announced the intention of using nuclear weapons against the U.S. The explanation offered by the Chinese government, that Zhu's speech only expressed his own personal opinions and does not represent the Chinese military, is not convincing. Looking at the changes in the relationship between the two countries, whether a state of military neutrality will last depends on whether or not the Chinese civil system is strong enough to manage the military."

Beware of letting your prejudice block your ability to negotiate. Yes, you have to watch your enemies to see the strike coming before it hits; forewarned is forearmed. Don't let an impression of your enemy hinder communications. Through a dialogue you may find he is not the enemy but a potential ally.

Team Negotiations

Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Brown was recalled to Washington to oversee national hurricane Katrina relief efforts. His replacement is Coast Guard Vice Adm. Thad W. Allen, who was overseeing New Orleans relief and rescue efforts.

Team negotiations are often essential in today's business environment. They function like any other team and become dynamic entities in their own rights. By expanding a group, additional talents and perspectives are added. Additional members also increase communications and focus challenges. This can be beneficial to the process, or detrimental.

Like any other aspect of negotiations or management, teams need to be well managed.

If you are heading a negotiating team, you need to manage the people on your team. Even if they are "professionals" you are responsible for their preparation, research, and the role they will play. This is especially important if they are "professionals". Too often clients delegate the preparation and research aspects of a settlement conference to their legal staff. This would be fine if the issues were going to be resolved by simply applying legal principles. When it comes to other issues and overall strategy, the responsibility is ultimately vested solely with the lead negotiator. You need to insure that everyone on your team knows their role, is prepared, and most importantly, that you have set the global strategy for the session and the parameters for settlement.

If you find you have a weak team member, replace that person quickly. If they have been engaged in the fray, do so in a fashion that does not impair the progress you have made. Negotiations is little more than small group management.

In the case of Michael Brown, he had to be removed because he had become a liability. Michael Chertoff tried to smooth over the impact of his removal by saying it was part of a larger need: "The effort to respond and recover from hurricane Katrina is moving forward. We are preparing to move from the immediate emergency response phase to the next phase of operations," Chertoff said during a press conference. "Importantly, we must have seamless interaction with military forces as we move forward with our critical work in New Orleans and the surrounding parishes. At the same time, we are still in hurricane season and need to be prepared to deal effectively with the possibility of future hurricanes and other disasters."

Negotiation Barriers

An anonymous complaint is filed against Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson, the lead character on the new TNT series The Closer, while she is busy investigating the murder of a Hollywood producer. The investigation threatens to jeopardize her career. Rather than take the easy way out by pretending to be contrite to stop the investigation, Brenda focuses on breaking the case. Her squad members, knowing of the pending investigation, work behind her back to thwart the unfounded case against her.

Negotiators are human. They are subject to being distracted by personal problems, other matters and even exhaustion. To a lesser extent, they can be distracted by delays in a meeting, antagonistic behaviour of someone in the room, or even by the light coming in through the window.

Being comfortable is an essential ingredient to being effective as a negotiator or mediator. Before entering a settlement conference put aside you personal issues and clear your mind. If the other issues are such that you can't do this, don't start the negotiation. Ask for a postponement or send someone else. You need to have all of you faculties focused to do the job properly. Such distractions are barriers or obstacles that stand in the way of a successful negotiation. Better put, barriers are obstacles to effective communications.

In order to have an effective discussion, the people party to the discussion have to be able to hear, be heard, and understand each other. If you sense the other person is distracted, make it your responsibility to expose the cause. If it is going to impede the other person from listening or focusing on what you are saying, you may want to suggest postponing the meeting. If you feel it will cause the other person to rush through the meeting and grant concessions to wrap things up, then it may be advantageous to proceed. Until you know the situation, you can't judge what the impact will be on the negotiations.

You may actually want to call their attention to the fact that they weren't listening and ask them why. While this second tactic may seem rude, it can often uncover the reason for the barrier that can then be removed. For example, I recall a situation where the other person replied, "I'm really sorry, my daughter is very sick and I'm distracted." To this I said that I was sorry to hear about her daughter and we put off further discussions until the personal problem was resolved. In understanding her personal need, we dealt with each other as real people. This helped us to overcome some of the tougher issues we were facing as we had built up a level of trust and respect. The point is that unless communications are being heard, they should be forestalled until the other person is ready or capable of hearing what you have to say.

The mere act of acknowledging barriers to communications can give you the opportunity to work together to start to agree on how to resolve the barriers. Then it will be easier to discuss and resolve the real issues.

By the end of The Closer, Deputy Chief Johnson's staff had demonstrated to her and to the LAPD that she was finally accepted. This will change for the better how they function as a team.

Crisis Management

Katrina has thrown America a major curve. After weathering the storm everyone exhaled. Then, the following day, the levies gave way and havoc erupted. The ensuing crisis has focused the attention of the world on America's ability to handle the situation.

Having good crisis management skills is an essential characteristic of an effective negotiator. No matter how well-prepared, how you have planned, or how ready you are for a negotiation, the unknown can always through a curve into the process. How the unexpected is handled often determines the outcome of a negotiation.

Managing a crisis requires:

• Understanding your own strengths and capabilities.
• Knowing where the high ground is and how to get there.
• Being able to gain the confidence of others and lead them to safety.
• Having the strength to weather the store and make the trek.
• Caring enough to make the effort to prevail.
• Taking action and following through to complete the task.

In negotiations when your final overtures are thwarted or an agreement made is broken at the last minute presents a crisis situation. Times like these require regrouping, on-the-fly assessment of options, and concise decision-making. Only good preparation and a strong knowledge base will prepare you to step into the breach and save the day. Whether you do it is up to you. It takes confidence, conviction and a passion to prevail.

Michael Chertoff, the Homeland Security and FEMA, Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and everyone else involved on the ground and in the chain of command have had to cope with correcting a problem that emerged from what initially was thought to have been a near miss. How they handle the situation on a go-forward basis is far more important that understanding how it happened. That will come later. In a crisis you look forward, make a plan, and attack the plan. You can look back later. What is essential is that the victims are attended to, the areas impacted are stabilized, and rebuilding is not only started but completed.

Trust is Necessary When Negotiating

In episode eight of Showtime's popular series Huff, Izzy lectures Beth on trusting too much. "You know, trust is a device we use to put people on pedestals. The higher we put them, the harder they fall". "And your point is?" Beth asks. "The next time you catch yourself trusting somebody, look at that scar!" Izzy has been deeply hurt by her husband leaving her for another woman. Beth had naively let Huff's patient into their home trusting her when she said she would not hurt anyone.

Conflict resolution, alternate dispute resolution, negotiations, mediation, settlement discussion, debt restructuring, salary and performance reviews, literally any form of productive human interaction requires a basis of trust from which accords can be reached. Humans are inclined to want to trust each other. The need to trust one another is necessary to function in society.

Honesty or integrity is an essential personal characteristic for any negotiator regardless of the situation. If you have a good reputation others will listen with confidence. If not, you will have to sell each point hard and even then may still be doubted.

Make sure you mean what you say and that you are able to back it up with your actions or those of your company. Never intentionally give your word then go back on it. Sometimes situations change and you are forced to back out of an agreement. Never do so lightly. Explain the change that occurred. Clearly demonstrate your frustration at having to change your mind to the other person. Apologize profusely and empathize with the other person's angst. Try to find a way to make it up. You do not want others to think this is typical behavior for you.

If directed by superiors to reverse your word or go back on a contract, do not blame your boss or company. Even if that is the cause, it is your word that has been broken. Taking the heat personally demonstrates your sincerity and should save a good portion of your reputation. If such vacillation is habitual in your company, consider seeking another job where you can provide proper representation.

Izzy's bitter resentment demonstrates the damage caused by a breach of trust. For her, she has lost the ability to assume people are trustworthy. When this happens in a negotiation, the absence of trust will block any chance the parties have of opening up and solving the problem. In such a situation someone needs to suggest changing the negotiators or separating them. Often a mediator will put the parties into a permanent caucus setting and negotiate between the two parties, a process called shuttle diplomacy. This tactic diffuses the angst one or both of the parties has toward the other and may allow meaningful discussions to get started. You have to be willing to get burned from time to time, as Beth was, to effectively negotiate. It requires you to have faith in the other person.

Collateral Damage Assessment.

Michael Scheuer, one of the CIA's foremost authorities on Bin Laden, says his agents provided U.S. government officials with about ten opportunities to capture Bin Laden. All of them were rejected. One of the last proposals, which he described to the 9/11 Commission in a closed-door session, involved a cruise missile attack against a remote hunting camp in the Afghan desert. Bin Laden was believed to be socializing with members of the royal family from the United Arab Emirates.

Collateral damage is a seemingly unique human concern. It comes from living within social structure and being concerned about how one's actions might impact those around the targeted objective. In war, collateral damage pertains to loss of civilian life when taking a military objective and the potential of losing support at home or from one's allies. In negotiations, collateral damage can mean damage to one's reputation or the company's reputation if unilateral actions are taken.

Often the easy victory is foregone in favor of the collective good of a grander plan. But if you lose enough skirmishes, the war might become hard to survive.

The best way to manage collateral damage is to maintain a proper perspective as to the importance of the issues being discussed. If they are related to other issues, make sure you are addressing the big issues before you bring in your really big guns. Don't waste too much of your power base on minor issues. If you win the major battles, the small issues will likely fall into place in time.

Collective Dreaming - How to Win in Negotiations

Empires are built on dreams. Olympic champions start by dreaming of winning their next match in middle school. In last season's closing episode of ABC's television series Lost, Locke shared the spirituality of why he has been placed on an island in the South Pacific that has healed his legs. Jack, his protagonist in the series, is limited to caring for the others and hoping to be rescued.

Locke is much more likely to sleep peaceably dreaming of something more than just surviving each night while Jack lies awake wondering what the next challenge will be that he will have to overcome.

According to Peter Drucker, successful companies such as Harley-Davidson and Starbucks work because they are selling a lifestyle or an image rather than simply a product. Successful companies offer more than a commodity. They create a collective dream-need through marketing that only their product or experience will satisfy.

No one enters a negotiation without an expectation of the outcome. Nor should they. Their expected outcome is their dream. To achieve that dream, they must find a way to make it the other person's "dream" as well.

Most focus on their individual needs and wants without caring about the other person's needs. To excel at negotiating, the strategy of collective dreaming is required. Collective dreaming is the process of getting everyone involved in the discussion and then having the group envision the same objective. That is, getting all concerned to want to achieve that objective albeit for differing reasons. Then they are more apt to work together to make it happen.

To do this a negotiator needs to look beyond his or her interests and conjure the ultimate outcome of the negotiation if successful for the group. Then, acting as an informal leader, he or she must present that dream to the entire group demonstrating how, if achieved, it benefits everyone.

It does not cost anything to consider another person's needs or perspective. In the coming season of Lost it will be interesting to see whether Locke or Jack prevail in creating a common goal for the survivors.

When to Use Power

"The use of force is the last option for any president. ... You know we have used force in the recent past to secure our country." -- --U.S. President George W. Bush, on the possible use of military force against Iran.

POWER

Power is a constant in all negotiations. Understanding the dynamics of power in conflict settings is essential to mastering its potential. Skilled poker players know that for a bluff to be effective you must first establish yourself as being a competent player with a tendancy to back up your bets with good hands. The public remarks made by President Bush certainly deliver that message loud and clear. As he has done in Afganistan and Iraq, he has used our military when negotiations fail. By rattling his saber, President Bush is pressing Iran to soften their resolute posture before he is forced to act. This does not mean he wants to act. Only that he might act and is not afraid to do so.

Power can complicate negotiations. Viable deals are often missed because one side assumes the other will not negotiate or will take undue advantage of their strength. This false assumption can result in an acceptable offer never being tendered. In fact, were a proposal made, there is always a chance that it could lead to a satisfactory result.

Everyone has power in a negotiation if they have the ability to walk away from the "table". A powerful person or company does not always hold all the cards. No matter your net worth, company size or investment in the situation, if you can get up and walk away, you have a degree of power. You have the power, and it is absolute, to say "No!".


In today's world, every nation appears to be vying for their own power base to remain significant on the national stage. Iran and North Korea are using the threat of obtaining nulclear status to grab the center stage while the rest of the world is trying to diminish the nulclear threat. America is very aware of the growing threat and is putting them on notice. We may just have to use the power we have to thwart their efforts as we have done in the past. His statements are to be taken seriously as he has the track record of doing what he says he is going to do. Saddam did not listen or believe. Hopefully others will.