Conflict and Negotiation

Arshia from United Kingdom asked:

"Please explain the difference between Conflict and Negotiation?"

A Negotiation Expert Answered:

Negotiation is generally defined as "a communication process we use to reach a mutual greement or resolve conflict". For many years, the attention of conflict researchers and theoretists was directed to the laudable objective of conflict resolution. The gradual shift over the last years form a focus on resolution to a focus on settlement has had an important implication for the conflict field. It has increased the importance of understanding negotiation, which id a method of settling conflict rather than resolving it. The focus is not attitude change but an agreement to change behaviour in ways that make settlement possible. The shift in favour of techniques of conflict settlement has involved the interest and attention of practitioners in great many fields, ranging divorce mediators to negotiators operating in business, labour, or international disputes.

One of the ways for effective conflict settlement is "enlightened self interest" (Robin J.Z. 1989) which is a behaviour that allows moving towards your objectives in negotiation, and at the same time make it possible for other party to approach his/her goal. It is an amalgam of pure individualism and cooperation, in which you need to find some way of getting what you want - sometimes maybe more or les than you considered before - by leaving the door open for the other side to do well. The most popular anecdote on this point is the tale of two sisters, who agree over the division of an orange between them (Fisher & Ury, 1981). Each would like the entire orange. The solution is to split it 50-50, which although is fair, it is no necessarily wise. One sister proceeds to peel the orange, discard the peel and eat her half of the fruit; the other peels the orange, discards the fruit, and uses her part of the peel to bake a cake. The key in any negotiation and conflict settlement is to understand each sides underlying interests, needs and values instead of focusing on each sides positions.

It is tempting for parties to a conflict to begin by experimenting with a set of adversarial, confrontational in the hope that these will work. People usually make a mistake by thinking why not give hard bargaining a try a first, since if moves such as threat, bluff or intimidation work as intended, the other side may give up without much of a fight. The problem is that once one has left the path of joint problem solving it may be very difficult to return again. It is far easier to move from cooperation to competition than the other way round.

Negotiation is one of the tools that help settling a conflict; I would even say that also one with the most creative opportunities. Negotiators have well-recognized interests in the outcome, either in getting a settlement It is always better to try negotiating the conflict first than give it away and let an arbitrator decide about a solution. Although it is not always possible, it gives a chance to focus on a problem and preserve relationship. Sometimes its wise to engage a third-party inviting a mediator into play. We should keep in mind that the less costly solution is one that is focused on joint problem solving - interests; then rights and power, but only when there is no other solution. Focusing on interests, compared to focusing on rights or power, tends to produce higher satisfaction with outcomes, better working relationships and less recurrence.

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1 of 2 people found the following comment useful:

Commentator: Beatrice (United States - District of Columbia)

"I have lived in conflict for my life time but I feel immune now. I am interested in taking the course to back up my professional and personal experience"

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6 of 6 people found the following comment useful:

The 3rd Party Mediator - 2009 Nov 18
Commentator: Roger (Australia - South Australia)

"This question could include a discussion on Mediation. Often a Negotiator is perceived to represent 1 of the conflicting parties, while an introduction as a mediator can change both the perception and the likely outcome of your discussion.
Never be afraid to reposition yourself after listening to the answers to your open questions.
Conflicting words have left many people dead."

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