The Role of Information in Negotiation

What is Negotiation

Negotiation consists of communication between parties[1] which essentially entails the exchange of information[2]. The aim of this dialogue is to resolve a dispute and can consist of different styles and techniques to that end.

The Phases of Negotiation

Negotiation typically consists of two different phases; (1) the creation of mutually beneficial options and then; (2) the distribution of them between the parties. So, some negotiators may try create solutions to the problem of access to a resource by transforming it somehow into a joint resource which both parties can take advantage of. They may realise (often with the help of a mediator) that an apology is what will resolve an aspect of the dispute, together with an exchange of assets such as compensation. The distribution of these solutions between the relevant parties can then take place in order to resolve the dispute.

Styles

Th integrative approach to negotiation (i.e. phase 1) views information as a key element, particularly in achieving a successful outcome. It also leads to a higher level of reciprocity and cooperation.  Mutually beneficial solutions arise out of an open discussion about each side’s needs and objectives.

 This is different from the distributive negotiator (phase 2) who competes to satisfy only her interests only. They retain information as they see it as a weakness. This is best illustrated by somebody buying a car for the lowest possible price. However, once solutions are devised, they must be distributed during the distributive phase.

The distributive approach does not suit more complex disputes – imagine negotiating the Brexit deal in this way!  With so many complex issues at stake and it being such a novel international law scenario affecting many aspects of the EU and the UK, a more creative approach would be ideal.

Information

 Negotiators must decide to disclose or retain information  as it could lead to a beneficial outcome or reveal one’s vulnerabilities . Information exchange is a fundamental part of negotiation and it is a negotiator’s strength and weakness. It is therefore ‘key’ to negotiation and forms a significant consideration in any negotiation.

The decision to disclose information to the other side should only be done to change the perception of the opponent, to demonstrate a strong position and to show a willingness to be open, transparent and ultimately a trustworthy opponent.

Why is this important?

By taking the integrative approach, you need to establish trust in order to encourage the cooperation needed to devise creative, win/win solutions. This is facilitated by the exchange of information. It shows a willingness to work together, to trust and show a limited amount of vulnerability. However, the information you disclose should be relevant. It should help to change an entrenched position, encourage trust and cooperation and bring you closer to creating viable options for settlement. It shouldn’t damage your interests, make you a target for an untrustworthy opponent or reveal confidential or sensitive information that is not part of the negotiation.

A good negotiator will be able to make sensible, well timed decisions about disclosure but if you are in doubt then hold back!

Top Tips

  • Nail down the crux of the negotiation. What is it that you want to walk away with but what would you be satisfied with if that isn’t possible? Flexibility will help you here.
  • What type of negotiation is it? If it is a straightforward discussion about the price of something you wish to buy, a distributive approach would be sufficient. But if there are complex matters that are not so simple, an integrative approach would be more suitable.
  • Remember that even if you are taking an integrative approach, you will also need to distribute the creative solutions!
  • What information do you have available to you to help you achieve the goal of the negotiation? Do you need or have expert reports (e.g. surveys etc), invoices, estimates etc?
  • How will it benefit you to disclose them to the other side? What perceptions will they change or entrench? How will it build trust?

Any thoughts? Leave a comment!


[1] Lewicki, Roy. Et al. Negotiation, (7th edition)New York, McGraw Hill Education, 2015, p.230

[2] Faizullaev, Alisher, Diplomatic Interactions and Negotiations, Negotiation Journal (2014) 30 (3), 275-299

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