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Negotiation Journal

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Personal Journal

Negotiation is a process whereby two persons or groups strive to reach agreement on issues or courses of action where there is some degree of difference in interest, goals, values or beliefs. Before attending the "Negotiations and Conflict Management" course, I perceived the negotiation process to be primarily adversarial in nature. Now, I realise that it is, for the most part, a collaborative process. The course challenged my belief that negotiation is just an art or a skill that people are born with. Instead a plethora of strategies and tactics for different forms of negotiations are involved.

If my memory serves me right, my first negotiation was with my father when I was eight years old. I wanted the latest video game but my dad will have nothing of it. After creating a ruckus for well over a week, a deal was finally struck. Its terms were - I had to get straight A's in the final exams and the Nintendo would be mine. Looking back at it now, I can safely consider this to be my first successful integrative negotiation. Even though the process was all but collaborative to start with, my father and I focussed on our commonalities and attempted to address each other's interests rather than positions. In the end, both sides were able to achieve their objectives.

After about twenty years, my negotiation style has undergone a sea of changes. According to the Thomas-Kilmann conflict mode test that we took a few days before our course began, I scored highest on the 'Compromising' scale (90 percentile). This indicates that I lie somewhere in between the assertiveness and cooperativeness dimensions. As I reflect on the professional career and look back at the negotiations that I entered into, either with my team, my supervisors or my clients, this seems about appropriate. The quote, from the slides that Prof Jackson and Prof Dubey prepared for our class - "Lazy problem-solving involving a half-hearted attempt to satisfy either the two parties' interests or simple yielding by both parties" unfortunately describes me very well. With my clients, the negotiations were mostly related to schedules and budgets; resource allocation with my supervisors and leave management / task assignments with my team-members. I realised that I had the tendency of arriving at suboptimal solutions instead of taking conflict situations head on. However, the outcomes of the process would leave both parties satisfied with what they took home at the end of the day. During my professional career, I have worked closely and established strong relationships with numerous vendors, client managers, business owners and offshore teams. Because all parties were equally important and they trusted one another, compromising style of negotiation did work. This style was also appropriate because goals of the different stake-holders were mutually exclusive.

Some of my perceived strengths as a negotiator are listed below:

 Honesty and integrity - These are some characteristics that I consider my strengths as a person and not just as a negotiator. I have never given false assurances or made unrealistic commitments. It has helped me to build trust and earn respect from my clients and managers; hence whenever I am negotiating with them it is much easier for me to convince them.

 Empathy - My empathetic listening capabilities help to create an atmosphere of positive problem-solving. I stand up for my issues but still recognize that others' issues are just as valid. As I now understand, these skills are absolutely necessary for successful integrative negotiations. There are always intangible factors at a negotiation desk. Being an active listener and asking the right questions help to surface the intangibles, thereby allowing me to understand the underlying emotions and resolve issues.

 Flexibility - It is of vital importance that we enter any negotiation with an open mind. In the fast paced world that we live in today, many ideas are generated back and forth, even in meetings that last only for half an hour. It is important to remain versatile and adapt to changes quickly and generate alternative ideas. I have always been quick on my feet and this has helped me to manoeuvre myself out of many tricky situations.

 Calmness - I generally stay calm and focussed while negotiating. The video of Bob White that was shown in class was a classic example. Although there were a lot of expletives exchanged, but White never lost his grip over the situation. I too try to remain calm and maintain my composure when tempers soar. I have noticed that such a behaviour has a reciprocal effect; tends to calm the other side down.

However, there are always areas for improvement. Some of my weaknesses that I have identified are:

 Decisiveness - Ability to take quick decisions tends to earn the respect from the other side. I was exposed to a client facing role at quite an early stage of my career. One of the advices given to me then was to take my time before making any commitments and never to succumb to any pressure. This habit, however, has stuck with me longer than it should have. This is something that can be taken care of in the first stage of the negotiations. By preparing thoroughly, it is possible to analyse all possible issues and therefore be better equipped for the upcoming negotiation.

 Hardball tactics sometimes gets the better out of me. I have a tendency to get intimidated easily. Though I do not lose my calm yet I tend to get misled. I learned that an effective way to tackle such behaviour is identifying it and letting the other party know that you are aware of the tactics they are using. Another important tactic that I learned during the last few weeks is that it is alright to leave the negotiation desk when there is an impasse, gather your thoughts and come back afresh.

 Short sightedness - Sometimes I tend to get so hung up on solving the minor issues that I fail to take a holistic or a long term view of the issues at hand. This is highly detrimental as it often leads to sub-optimal solutions. I plan to overcome this shortcoming by developing a long term vision of what my organization and I wish to achieve from the relationship with other party. If there is already a vision in place, I will try to maintain a constant focus on it. This will allow me to always keep the big picture in mind.

 Lack of persistence - It is essential for all good negotiators to be persistent, especially when it comes to distributive bargaining. I believe that persistence is a skill that cannot be taught. It needs to be imbibed. The only way to be more persistent than what I am now would be to practise it in the everyday negotiations - with your friends while deciding where to have

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