Negotiation – Levels of Influence
When elements of a system are in conflict, there is incongruence that needs to be addressed. If the system you’re working with is an individual, incongruence is referred to as an internal conflict. If an incongruence is within a system that involves more than one person, the incongruence might be labeled a dispute, an argument, a disagreement, or a fight. Whatever the system is, incongruence needs to be addressed in order to bring balance to the system.
The list that follows is an overview of useful skills depending on the circumstances leading to the need to negotiate. Take a moment to reflect on how you have used the skills from each category in the past. In this way, you can identify two important things: times in your life when using a different negotiation technique might have led to a better conclusion; and which skills you might want to practice.
Negotiating: Each position has both leverage and motivation to reach an outcome, and neither party needs to relinquish any provisions of their agenda to reach an agreement. Negotiating is effective when comparing two agendas to determine if a blending of the two agendas is mutually beneficial.
Compromising: The desired outcomes are polarized to the point that one or both sides must forfeit at least some aspect of their outcome. “I’ll trade ____ for ____.” This occurs when both parties value outcome resolution more than one or more individual aspects of their own agenda.
Litigating / Arbitrating / Mediating: All three of these possible forms of reaching an agreement have varying degrees of input from an external source. Because each of these processes of conflict resolution relies on someone or something external to an individual to bring the conflict to closure, the two parties may take a more passive role with limited input. These processes have been included in this list because circumstances might lead to the need for calling in outside help or perspective.
Litigating is the process normally associated with a courtroom setting. It involves judges, attorneys, plaintiffs, defendants, and juries. The litigation process is designed to see to it that everybody obeys the law or pays the consequences if they don’t.
An arbitration is governed by law and is outside of the normal judicial process. Subpoenas can be issued and legal briefs might be required. Even though there is no jury and some general rules of evidence are relaxed, it’s recommended that both parties involved have legal representation. Arbitration is a viable option when an issue is already a win-lose situation and both parties agree to accept the arbitrators decision.
Mediation is less formal than litigation and arbitration, and any decision that is reached must be agreed on by both parties. If both parties are committed to reaching an equitable conclusion to a conflict, the mediation process can be a good place to start. A mediator is unbiased and acts to assist the conflicted parties in reaching an agreement. Unlike a judge or an arbitrator, a mediator doesn’t render a decision. A good mediator is skilled in conflict negotiation and group dynamics. Mediation is an effective tool when the focus is on ‘resolution’ rather than ‘victory’.
Requiring: This level of influence comes in the form of a directive originating from the position having a significant majority of control of the outcome. The subordinate position has minimal leverage and limited input. Influence from the subordinate position comes more from how the outcome will be reached, and less about if it will be reached.
The proactive choices available to someone in the position of lesser influence involve little more than compliance versus consequence. A requirement is a edict that must be carried out in order to avoid a consequence.
An example: Suppose Clyde’s boss adamantly requires him to have a report done in two days, and Clyde doesn’t want to do it. Clyde has a decision to make. To continue working for the same company he needs to get the report done, or he can consider his options: ignore the request and hope for the best; try to get his boss to change his mind; spend the next two days looking for another job. Before Clyde chooses what to do, he needs to weigh his options and decide if what he’s being required to do is worth the effort it will take to comply. He might think his boss is taking advantage of him, and would rather take his chances in the job market than cater to someone he doesn’t respect. Clyde’s decision could change again when he remembers he has a wife and three children to provide for.
From Clyde’s perspective, the preceding scenario would probably seem unfair; even so, he still has some influence on the outcome for himself.
Pleading: Although pleading is normally associated with a legal action, the action of pleading is a good definition for another level of negotiation. Used as a (transitive) verb, to plead is defined in part as: to offer as a plea usually in defense, apology, or excuse; to argue for or against a claim. In the context of negotiation, pleading is the process of presenting information to another party for additional consideration. Pleading is often a precursor to one of the other forms of negotiating. I consider pleading to be a negotiation skill because the manner in which someone presents a case from their perspective can often bring a conflict to a point of resolution before it becomes necessary to use a more complicated form of negotiation.
Begging: Begging is the behavior with the least amount of influence for any situation that hasn’t reached a point of conclusion, and is only used as a last resort. At this level of influence, the only hope is that the position of greater authority, or the person with the upper hand, will change agendas.
When the position that has ultimate control of an outcome has no apparent motivation to reach a mutual agreement, the position of lesser influence needs to introduce an incentive that motivates the position of greater influence into further dialogue, and to a change of agenda.
If a situation gets to the point that begging is a person’s last chance, the question of compliance or consequence mentioned in the explanation for ‘Requiring’ is reduced to mercy or consequence.
Begging might be useful prior to something reaching a point that the final outcome has been determined, but even then, other negotiation skills will give a person more control of the outcome. Begging is appropriate only when no other form of reaching an agreement is possible, and only for something that is possible. Remember, no amount of begging, wishing, or denial of the facts will change what has already happened.
When begging is used with a hope that something that can’t be changed will be changed, it’s permeated with urgency, need, and anxiety. A harmful side-effect to hoping for something that simply can’t happen is that the failed anticipation can lead someone into despair and hopelessness. People don’t give up all hope because they hoped for something that didn’t happen, they give up hope because they hoped for something that couldn’t happen.
The only time any form of negotiation is useful is when the final outcome of an event has yet to be determined. If an event has not reached a point of finality, negotiating for the best possible outcome is being proactive.
This article was written by Al Sargent and Marilyn Sargent of Success Design International. They are the authors of the Spencer Institute’s Life Strategies Coach Certification and the Results Coach Certification.
If you found this article helpful, you will want to click over it and get more information on how to use this in a coaching setting. For more information on Al and Marilyn, visit www.repoweryourlife.com