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7 Elements of Negotiation, Part 3: Relationship

by Jeff Thompson
March 2009

From Jeff Thompson's Enjoy Mediation Blog

Jeff Thompson
You have your interests figured out as well as your alternative. Both are two very important tasks to take care of during your preparations, as well as to remember during the negotiation. An important question to ask yourself before you begin your negotiation is, "How important is the relationship I have with the other party/negotiator/group they are representing?"

The value, or lack, of the relationship should determine such things like how hard will you press certain issues, how tough of a stand will you take, will you be more attacking or submissive, etc?

If the relationship will not exist after the negotiation concludes, you might not care how they feel or really be all to concerned with their emotions, right? Well, not really. Although you might not care as much compared to wanting to keep a relationship ongoing, I would still advise someone not to go into the negotiation 'guns blazing'.

The first reason is personal. Maybe I might not care all to much what the other party thinks of me, but I do care what I think of me.

Huh?

What I mean is I have control over me and only me in the negotiation. I do not want to resort to name calling or an all out offensive attack because that is not how I negotiate.

Additionally, consider your reputation. You might never interact with this person or group again, but keep in mind they might talk to other people in your field or market. When someone says, "your reputation precedes you," you don't want it to be for being a hothead, do you?

Losing the battle might help you win the war. Ok, first I really dislike referring to any mediation or negotiation to war, so this is a rarity but it fits. If maintaining the relationship is more important than this particular issue/conflict you are having, is it really worth damaging, possibly beyond the point of fixing? This is a very important question to ask yourself.

As a mediator, it is important to ask the parties how important the relationship is. By doing so you are playing the crucial role of reality testing to get them to consider the choices they might make and the future implications it will have.

Biography


Jeff Thompson, Ph.D., is a professor at Lipscomb University, researcher, mediator, and trainer. He is also involved in crisis and hostage negotiation as well as a law enforcement detective. His research includes law enforcement crisis and hostage negotiation in terrorist incidents. He received his doctorate from Griffith University Law School having researched the impact nonverbal communication has in conflict situations with respect to developing rapport, building trust, and displaying professionalism.

Dr. Thompson has presented and trained on the topic of conflict, mediation, (crisis and hostage) negotiation, communication and nonverbal communication internationally for a variety of audiences including police personnel, government officials, judges, attorneys, physicians, sales people, business professionals, and both graduate and undergraduate students. He has also been published in numerous professional and academic publications.

He is the co-chair of ACR's national Crisis Negotiation Section, and he is an ad-hoc reviewer for multiple academic journals. He received his MS in Negotiation and Dispute Resolution from the Werner Institute, Creighton University School of Law.

(All posts by Jeff Thompson represent his personal reflections and opinions and not that of any organization.)



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