Stages of Negotiation

To achieve a desired outcome, it may be useful to follow a structured approach to negotiation. For example, a work situation requires arranging a meeting so that all parties involved can come together.

The negotiation process includes the following stages:
1. Preparation
Before any discussion takes place, it is necessary to decide when and where a meeting will be held to discuss the issue and who will attend. Setting a limited time-scale can also be helpful in preventing disagreements from continuing.

This stage involves making sure you know all the relevant facts of the situation to clarify your own position. In the work example above, this includes knowing your organisation’s ‘rules’, who is given help, when help is not considered appropriate and the reasons for such refusal. Your organization may have good policies that you can refer to in preparation for the discussion.

Preparing before discussing disagreements will help avoid further conflict and unnecessary time-wasting during the meeting.

2. Discussion
At this stage, the person or members of each side present the case as they see it, that is, their understanding of the situation.

Key skills at this stage include questioning, listening and clarifying.

Sometimes it is helpful to take notes to record all the points during the discussion stage if further clarification is needed. It is very important to listen, because when disagreements arise it is easy to make the mistake of saying too much and listening too little. Each party should have an equal opportunity to present their case.

3. Clarify goals
Discussions need to clarify the goals, interests and perspectives of both sides of the disagreement.

It is helpful to list these factors in order of priority. Through this clarification it is often possible to identify or establish some common ground. Clarification is an essential part of the negotiation process, without which misunderstandings can occur which can cause problems and obstacles in reaching a beneficial outcome.

4. Negotiate toward a win-win outcome
This stage is called a ‘win-win’ outcome where both parties feel that they have achieved something positive through the negotiation process and both parties feel that their views have been taken into account.

A win-win outcome is usually the best outcome. Although this may not always be possible, through negotiation, this should be the ultimate goal.

Alternative strategies and compromise suggestions need to be considered at this point. Compromises are often positive alternatives that often achieve greater benefits for all concerned than holding the original position.

5. Agreement
Agreement can be achieved when both parties’ perspectives and interests are considered.

An open mind is essential for everyone involved to find an acceptable solution. Any agreement should be made completely clear so that both parties know what has been decided.

6. Implementing a course of action
From agreement, a course of action must be implemented to carry through the decision.

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