Negotiation:  A Deeper Understanding

Would you agree that whatever is our status in life, no matter what age, sex inclination, religious beliefs, and in whatever walks of life, we experienced negotiation one way or another?

Negotiation is not just a topic discussed in the study of Public Administration but it is one truth in our lives that we deal with even no matter how simple one’s life is or how basic things are done in the workplace or at home.

So, let me walk you through today on another topic of Public Administration as a theory and as a subject of research and presentations on the said course based on books (e.g.  Human Behavior in Organization by Roberto G. Medina, Ph.D.), Wikipedia and other sources.  Afterwards, allow me also to give you ideas or examples how we apply such theories consciously or unconsciously into our dealings with other people.  This topic is in line with my discussion last week about Executive Decision Making (

So, what is negotiation?

Negotiation, according to, is a bargaining (give and take) process between two or more parties (each with its own aims, needs, and viewpoints) seeking to discover a common ground and reach an agreement to settle a matter of mutual concern or resolve a conflict.

There are two major approaches to negotiation (Robbins and Judge, p.58; Human Behavior in Organization by Roberto G. Medina, Ph.D., p. 249):

  1. Distributive Bargaining -“The Fixed Pie” approach;  the goals of the parties are in conflict, and each party seeks to maximize its share of the resources.  This win-lose approach is really a process of dividing or “distributing” scarce resources. 
  2. Integrative Negotiation          Everybody Wins Something (usually); described as the win-win scenario; the focus is on making it possible for both sides to achieve their objectives; usually involves a higher degree of trust and a forming of a long-term relationship to create mutual gain.

There are three basic elements of negotiation:

  1. Process refers to how the parties negotiate:  the context of the negotiations, the parties to the negotiations, the tactics used by the parties, and the sequence and the stages in which all of these play out.  Refer to the Negotiation Process presented on the image below.
  2. Behavior refers to the relationships among the parties, the communication between them and the styles they adopt. 
  3. Substance refers to what the parties negotiate over:  the agenda, the issues (positions and – more helpfully – interests), the options, and the agreement (s) reached at the end.

There are also five negotiation styles:  

  1. Competitive Style involves forcing others to accept one’s view.  Can take many forms, including authoritative mandate, challenges, arguing, insults, accusations, complaining, vengeance, and even physical violence (Morril, 1995).
  2. Avoiding Style adopts a “wait and see” attitude, hoping that problems will solve themselves.  Methods include changing the subject, skip meetings, or even leave the group altogether.
  3. Compromising Style are used by individuals who are eager to close the deal by doing what is fair and equal for all parties involved in the negotiation.
  4. Accommodating Style is a passive but prosocial approach to conflict by giving in to the demands of others for the sake of group unity or in the interest of time.
  5. Collaborating Style involves solving tough problems in creative ways and identifies the issues underlying the dispute and then works together to identify a solution that is satisfying to both sides.

    I am sure by now in your own mind you can identify from your own experience which of them can be classified as to the different negotiation styles you used to a particular situation.  Let me cite a few examples of simple events that may have happened in our lives where we apply the five styles of negotiation.

    First,  would you believe that in playing card games such as poker or even playing mahjong, each player adopts the competitive style? Each player wants to bring the pot money home.  Each will play their cards or tiles close to their chest but will try to pry as much information from the other side.  Each one will try to demoralize the other players so that the others cannot concentrate or play effectively, thus, winning the bet.

    Second, don’t you know that walking out of an argument or changing a topic when it’s getting hot and is more likely to aggravate a situation, either in the office or at home, is adopting the avoiding style?  We usually adopt this kind of attitude especially at home when we get into a misunderstanding with our love ones and we don’t want to say or do things we will regret later on.

    Third, are you aware that haggling with a fish or vegetable vendor for their produce or goods and agreeing on a stated price for these products is a form of adopting the compromising style?  There is a limited time to complete the deal so we just try to haggle as much as they will concede with the thought that we offered and they accepted what is fair and equal for both parties.

    Fourth, do you agree that conceding or accepting the point of views of someone close to you without really being convinced that he/she is correct is using the accommodating style?  This may look like superficial compliance but because we wanted to preserve relationships we give in to them and sometimes, in the process, gets taken advantage of.

    Fifth, would you agree that in this world, nothing is impossible, no hurdles can’t be tackled, no mountains can’t be climbed, no problem remains unsolved if we have that special someone who can hold our hands together, with God’s blessings, to collaborate with?  Try this most ideal style, the collaborating style, in more complex undertakings and find out how effective it can get.

    See?  If you had not realized it before how negotiation plays even in the mundane things we do, think again.  Different situations call for different styles but we should try to bear in mind that there is a lot of advantage in trying to adopt the collaborating style as much as possible, but if it really gets too difficult, try to, at least, settle and agree on a compromise.

    Dear Readers, I hope to receive your comments or your own point of view regarding this topic.


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