Although negotiation is a part of communication strategy, today it has emerged as an independent communication system with its own processes and life cycle. The major dimension of negotiation include, negotiation as a process of conflict management, negotiation as a inter-personal process, architecting the process of negotiation, and third party negotiation. Among these , the two major dimensions of negotiation are conflict management and third party intervention.
Negotiation and conflict management . Negotiation, as a part of managing conflict, requires interested parties to trade proposals for settlement that include, out of court settlements, business contracts, collective bargaining contract etc (Womack, 1990, 32). As Womack further elaborates, generally the process of negotiation proceeds through motives that are both competitive and cooperative.
The approach of communication in the entire process of negotiation is concerned with the messages that are transferred among negotiators and the concerned parties. Communication intervenes in the process of negotiation through its both verbal and nonverbal forms and constitutes the entire base on which the goals and terms of the bargain are negotiated. Communication plays the central role in not only developing the relationship among the parties in conflict, but also in determining its direction.
It is also central in every form of bargaining process, whether the bargaining is done for organizational form of conflict management, involves conflict resolution, negotiation on legal agreements or for negotiation in inter-group an intra group conflict. The entire role of communication in negotiation processes and strategies is quite vast and it ranges from defining the conflict issues, selection and implementation of strategies to presenting and defending the viable alternatives and finally helping in reaching on a solution (Womack, 1990, 35).
In several studies on communication research, especially those involving game theory, communication was not considered central to the process of negotiation. Experiments showed that even when bargainers and negotiators resorted to communication, it was more for threatening than cooperating and collaborating. Womack quotes Deutsch (1969) to inform that back in 60s communication was considered as an unreliable approach in settling conflicts through negotiations.
Moreover, there were fears that poor communication forms could result in misinformation, errors and possible negative outcomes. There was an additional perception that owing to competitive natures of negotiations, effective and open channels of communication were not possible. Some of these findings hold valid in disputes, particularly that are distributive in nature and concern with business and marketing segment, it has been nonetheless observed that where the goal is to achieve integrated goals, a problem solving approach works in excellent way.
Womack (1990) further cites Lewicki, Weiss and Lewin, (1988), Fisher and Uri (1981), Lewicki and Litterer (1985) and Walton and Mckersie (1965) to state that negotiator resort to using multiple formal and informal communication channels to redefine the issues, present analysis of causes that offer difficulties in resolving the conflict and finally, through sharing of information and assessment of needs, help to identify the complete range of possible alternatives and solutions that are acceptable to mutual interests and needs of each party in the deal.
These approaches lead to negotiation strategies that involve greater participation by conflicting parties, positively contributing to the increased chances of success in reaching settlement through more alternate solution.
Some of the communication strategies adopted during negotiations on the group and organization levels in managing conflict include use of fantasy themes, interpretive themes, and stories and rituals that provide scapegoats to the involved parties and give them external reasons to come out with excuses, reasons and justifications to accommodate each other’s behavior, thereby preventing the chances of negotiations being stalled (Womack, 42).
It is of first importance that a mediator should present a completely neutral and unbiased image before the conflicting parties to win their confidence and trust in the ability of mediator to help in achieving possible outcome in conflict. The communication skills of mediators should present them as individuals free of gender, racial or ethnic biases. Along with this, successful mediation also requires listening skills on part of the mediator. It helps mediator to understand the current position of each party in the conflict as well inspire them with confidence in the neutrality of the mediator.