Law · Public Policy

The Art Of Negotiation – Key To Modern Conflict Management

Shreya Bansal comments upon the concept of Negotiation and its relevance. She also mentions the procedure involved and the various types of negotiation carried out in varied settings.


Negotiation is an inevitable part of our day to day lives. Whether it is negotiating with the vegetable vendor for a fair price or negotiating a deal in gigantic organizations; negotiation casts a long shadow over all the spheres of life. It is an art because we never really know the mind of the individual we are negotiating with. We can end up with a deal which is lower than our perceived expectations or make a great deal and then wonder if we could have done any better. According to Wikipedia, Negotiation is a dialogue between two or more people or parties intended to reach a mutually beneficial outcome, resolve points of difference, to gain advantage for an individual or collective, or to craft outcomes to satisfy various interests. Simply stated, it is a discussion aimed at reaching an agreement.

We encounter negotiation or engage in it from time to time; in fact it is popular opinion amongst management professionals that virtuosity in negotiation can lead to effective conflict management. The term conflict refers to perceived incompatibilities resulting typically from some form of interference or opposition. Conflict management, then, is the employment of strategies to correct these perceived differences in a positive manner.  Unless it is managed properly, conflict can damage an organization and destroy interpersonal relationships. For many decades, managers had been taught to view conflict as a negative force. But the evolving practices of management now do not view conflicts as wholly destructive. They can be functional and dysfunctional; it is the dysfunctional conflicts that the managers seek to do away with. For the longest time, the management focused on conflict avoidance but they soon came to realize the conflicts cannot be avoided in the work environment. So, it is better to look for a solution and manage them rather than ignoring their existence. Therefore different styles of negotiation have evolved to combat various kinds of conflicts.

There are different styles of negotiating. Mainly accommodating, avoiding, collaborating, competing and compromising. Conflict management entails the use of these styles in different scenarios. Competitive negotiating is also termed as driving the hard bargain. In simple words it entails expecting a lot, giving up a little and showing you’ll walk off. It is done from a position of strength. It should be done in times of crisis or urgency where the leader has to make quick decisions, or if it’s a onetime negotiation or when vital interests need to be protected. It may lead to potential loss of credibility where the other person may find himself between a rock and a hard place. It may sour relationships and not address deep seated interests effectively. Collaborative negotiating is the problem solving approach. But people generally get unrealistically high expectations from this supposed win-win approach. It is more than a few times that a mutual win doesn’t result in a win that is up to the expectations. Also it is a time intensive negotiation process; the parties need to build substantial trust amongst them. It should be used when bargaining has been tried and failed. When relationships have deteriorated, collaborative negotiation can help in better mutual understanding and problem solving. Compromising negotiations entail giving a little to get a little. They occur when negotiations are dead locked, there is parity within the parties (both are at a similar position), time is short and issues are easily quantifiable. Accommodating negotiations pay high attentiveness to other’s needs and assert less in pursuing own interests because the relationship is more important than the issue. In some situation avoiding a direct conflict may be the best solution. In case of high tensions or where there is no other plausible option to improve the situation it is best to avoid. In some way or the other all types of negotiations include the element of compromise. There are different types of bargaining styles that the negotiators use. A negotiator can be assertive, empathetic or both.  There is balance that needs to be maintained assertiveness and empathy. An assertive value claimer is a negotiation bargaining style in which you claim your value and advocate your interests but lack empathy for others. An empathetic value creator on the other hand is good at understanding the true needs of others and spotting problem-solving capabilities, though there is less confidence in maximizing own share. Also, there is a contrast between relational and outcome focused negotiators. Relational negotiators are great at interpersonal skills and on the other hand, outcome focused negotiators do great at creating and claiming value but lack understanding of others.

For effective conflict management, different styles need to be blended and used as per the situation. To obtain long term alliances and get a transformational negotiation, we need to look across the negotiation table and rather than seeing an adversary, regard our counterpart as our partner engaged in a collaborative effort.

It is essential to a negotiation that one remains cool and collected. Emotions can cause either party to not hear the message. Consider a situation where the person who has to conduct the negotiation is stressed and takes out the anger on the other person. Conflict resolution is a long shot rather it would just deepen the conflict. Anger is one of the most destructive emotions during negotiation, often causing deal making to break down as each side sacrifices its needs in order to save face.  Anger isn’t always a bad variable in negotiation. Deployed the right way, it can demonstrate passion and conviction that can help sway the other side to accept less. The trick is to direct the anger at the situation or problem, not the person on the other side of the table. No matter what emotions are present at the bargaining table, a smart negotiator first becomes aware of what they are and then works to emphasize the positive emotions that can help the deal and downplay the negative emotions that might scuttle it.

It’s the use of the right style of negotiation, perceiving the relationship between the parties, handling emotions and trying to get the best even in the worst situations that helps a negotiator in effective conflict management.



In conclusion I would like to say that negotiation is not easy; you have to be creative, confident, assertive and most importantly fearless. It can be daunting but in face of conflicts, it is a wonderful solution. Also, according to me the more you engage in negotiation, the more you learn from it. There is always a lesson to take away.



a) Conflict Management and Negotiation, Reference for Business

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b) Role of emotions in effective negotiations by Michael Blanding

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c) Excerpts from- The Art of Negotiation: How to Improvise Agreement in a Chaotic World by Michael Wheeler.


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