The World of Negotiation
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The World of Negotiation

Theories, Perceptions and Practice

Amira Galin

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  1. 332 pages
  2. English
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eBook - ePub

The World of Negotiation

Theories, Perceptions and Practice

Amira Galin

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The book will take its readers on a short tour of the world of negotiation, and provide them with a systematic understanding of a wide array of negotiation topics. The book includes the most essential points of importance and interest related to negotiation, such as theories and conceptions, basic negotiation processes and situations (including negotiating a hostage crisis), the impact of culture, negotiation values, and the uses of third-party intervention in negotiation. Each chapter concludes with a Practical Application section, giving readers an opportunity to implement the insights and make better decisions in future negotiation situations.

Readership: Individuals who are interested in Negotiation and Mediation, lecturers and students of the subjects, jurists, lawyers, accountants, managers, and politicians may all benefit from reading the book.
Key Features:

  • Provides practical applications to enable better negotiation decisions
  • Can serve as a textbook
  • Written in an accessible manner; appeals to a broad range of readers

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Conflict-Confrontation and Negotiation:
Theories and Perceptions

Chapter 1

Alternatives to Resolving Conflict

“One might as well try to ride two horses moving in different directions, as to try to maintain in equal force two opposing or contradictory sets of desires”.
Robert Collier
Ask yourselves the question: When do you negotiate? Some people, when asked this question, reply: “All the time”, while others say “on many occasions”. The fact is that no one negotiates all the time; we negotiate only on particular occasions; that is, only when we experience conflict with others. Negotiation is a way to confront conflict. In the absence of conflict, there is no reason to negotiate. However, the extent of success in resolving the conflict through negotiation depends, among other things, on the nature of the conflict and the available alternatives for actually finding a solution.
So, what do we know about the nature of conflict, the sources of conflict and the alternatives available to us when confronting a conflict? Is negotiation always the best alternative when confronting a conflict? How can we decide when negotiation is the optimal alternative for confronting a conflict or whether some other alternative should be considered? In the following chapter, all these issues and their implications are discussed.

1. On the Nature of Conflict

What is conflict and how can we define it?1 A conflict usually emerges when there is a change in the status quo, which also changes the existing balance of control over resources or values. As long as the status quo is maintained, the probability of conflict is low because people usually prefer to maintain the current state of affairs, rather than change it. However, the world has become a “small village”, which is constantly experiencing rapid changes in politics, values and resources. The status quo is also changing rapidly in all areas of life, stimulating conflicts between individuals, groups and nations. As a result, conflict has become an integral part of people’s daily lives.
The nature of conflict is studied in many disciplines, among them Decision-Making, Game Theory, Economics, Political Science, Sociology and Psychology. Each discipline perceives conflict from a different point of view. Some emphasize the negative aspects of conflict, while others observe the positive aspects. Nevertheless, conflicts prevail everywhere, in personal relations, among groups and among national entities; and a high proportion of human interaction and effort is invested in trying to resolve conflicts. Therefore, the question is not whether conflict is “good” or “bad”, but rather what are the causes of conflict and how can we best confront it.

1.1. Defining Conflict

There are many definitions of the term conflict, but the most prevailing definition relates to opposing interests (objective or conceptual) between and among individuals, groups or nations, involving scarce resources and values such as religion and ideology.2
Conflict can occur as a result of an objective situation or a subjective perception. When conflict results from what seems to be an objective change in the status quo, it is referred to as a “external” or “objective” conflict. However, the same conflict may exist only in the minds of the parties or individuals, in which case it can be referred to as a “concealed” or “subjectively perceived conflict.3 In other words, conflict also exists in situations where people only perceive opposing interests. In a situation where there is an objective change in the status quo, but people do not perceive opposing interests, there is no conflict. In a situation where there is no change at all, but people perceive opposing interests, there is conflict. Perceiving conflict may be influenced, on a case-by-case basis, by many features relating to the involved parties, such as their emotions, fear, stereotypes, cultural values and their perceived power balance. Nevertheless, regardless of whether the conflicts are objectively or subjectively perceived; their consequences can be severe, often damaging relationships between close friends and even between married couples, or triggering on a larger scale, struggles, strikes and even terror and wars.
It is noteworthy that the traditional literature discusses either “conflict resolution” or “conflict management”. “Conflict resolution” refers to the termination of a conflict, whereas, “conflict management” refers to minimizing the negative aspects of a conflict. However, conflicts are not always easy to resolve or manage. Therefore, the main issue is neither “conflict management” nor “conflict resolution”, but rather “conflict confrontation”. Obviously, the causes of the conflict should be taken into account when calculating the best way to confront it. While it is not possible to discuss all the causes of all conflicts here, we can still give some examples of the most typical causes of conflicts.

1.2. What are the Main Causes of Conflicts?

Scarce resources as the cause of conflict: The access and control of scarce resources4 has been a source of conflict for centuries. It is worth noting that scarce resources can be either tangible or sociological/psychological. Some examples of tangible scarce resources are: Land, as in a conflict between neighbors over a property dispute, at the individual level, or at the national level, in regard to water, which has long been the cause of bitter conflicts in many regions and countries, as Mark Twain said: “Whiskey is for drinking — water is for fighting over”. Disagreements over oil and natural gas have also been a serious source of conflict in many regions throughout the world. Some examples of the sociological/psychological causes of conflict are: The perception of group deprivation, sometimes as a result of vertically differentiated group; competition over an important (scarce) civil service office, which is a source of power and other rewards. Other examples are: Population density (objective or conceptual), which leads to demands for non-available food or space, as well as a desire for territorial control, and regime survival, are all causes of conflicts.
Values as a source of conflict: Religion has for centuries been a cause of brutal, ongoing conflicts. It was already an important cause of conflict in early ages,5 and also in so-called “modern times”. Conflicts over religious domination exist between and within various religious sectors, as well as between religious and secular populations. Religion, one of the main causes of conflict, has been and remains the source of countless wars and acts of terrorism.
Ideology has also been responsible for many painful conflicts throughout human history. Thus, religion and ideology are similar in respect to being major sources of conflict; they are also the most difficult conflicts to confront.
The “traditional” perception attributed to conflicts is that they trigger competition and struggles between the different interests of individuals, groups and nations. According to this conception, a system without conflicts or even with a few minor conflicts is the most desirable one; the assumption being that conflicts should be prevented at all costs.
Later perceptions of conflict considered it a natural phenomenon, typical to every social system. Conflicts are inevitable when people live and work together.6 Since conflicts are unavoidable, people should learn to live with them, resolve them, and if possible, even reap some benefits from them.
While traditional conceptions are interested in preventing conflicts, and other conceptions focus on resolving conflicts, it is also important to mention some positive attributes of conflicts. Conflicts sometimes serve as a trigger for social change and innovation, According to this conception, a social system without conflicts may degenerate in the absence of triggers that lead to change. Moreover, considering our subject matter, conflicts are important because they are the reason and the trigger behind negotiation.
National, international and diplomatic conflicts are good examples of conflict confrontation. While in this chapter only day-to-day examples are presented, it is noteworthy that the type of considerations and methods used to choose the best confrontation resolution alternative are the same, regardless of whether we are facing day-to-day conflicts, national, labor relations or any other type of conflict.

2. Considerations in Conflict Confrontation

2.1. What do People Consider When Confronting a Conflict?

As a rule, people take into consideration their expected gains versus their expected losses in each decision during conflict confrontation. Since losses are more painful than gains, it is reasonable to assume that the parties involved in a conflict will not consider a decision in which the expected gain is slightly higher than their expected losses. They also would not, rationally, consider a decision in which they believe that their losses would outweigh their gains.
Imagine, for example, a scenario in which graduate students are studying towards their Master’s degree. Their curriculum includes a fixed number of elective courses and two seminars, which the students must complete in order to qualify for their Master’s degree. It is important to note that a seminar is considered the most demanding type of a course, especially in terms of the students’ remaining leisure time. Now imagine that the university authorities wish to make a change in the curriculum by adding an additional (third) seminar — to the students’ curriculum. The students, however, oppose the university authorities’ intentions, by refusing to accept an additional seminar. The conflict is obvious. The interest of university authorities is to optimize the quality of teaching, which they believe will promote the university’s image, as well as increase the number of highly qualified students that enroll in the Master’s program. The student representatives’ interest is to preserve the students’ leisure time, which they believe is very limited, due to the current curriculum. Another interest of the students is to prevent any additional initiatives on the part of the university that may harm them. What should university authorities consider when deciding on how to confront this conflict with their own students? In order to optimize their gain, should they require a third seminar if, by doing so, they risk a students’ strike, bad publicity, as well as a possible reduction in the number of students enrolling the graduate program? It seems that in order to optimize their own interests, university authorities should take into consideration the possible consequences of requiring students to take on a third seminar. Another alternative is that university authorities will consider some kind of cooperation from their students. Then again, the authorities may consider giving up the third seminar requirement, thereby endangering the university’s image as a leading university and perhaps bringing about further student demands. University authorities might come to the conclusion that in making such a decision, their losses would outweigh their gains.
Imagine another scenario: A firm’s management has a great demand for a senior professional employee with unique and rare knowledge. The human resources manager has invested a lot of time trying to find a suitable candidate. When an appropriate candidate is finally found, the management is ready to offer him generous work conditions and a good salary. However, soon enough the management discovers that the candidate’s demands far exceed what the management believes is a fair and generous offer.
What should the management consider when deciding how to confront the conflict with the desirable candidate? Trying to force the candidate to accept the management’s original offer with a sort of “take it or leave it” attitude may be the best alternative to maximize management gai...

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