A variety of conditions can affect the success or failure of negotiations. The following conditions make success in negotiations more likely.
- Identifiable parties who are willing to participate. The people or groups who have a stake in the outcome must be identifiable and willing to sit down at the bargaining table if productive negotiations are to occur. If a critical party is either absent or is not willing to commit to good faith bargaining, the potential for agreement will decline.
- Interdependence. For productive negotiations to occur, the participants must be dependent upon each other to have their needs met or interests satisfied. The participants need either each other’s assistance or restraint from negative action for their
interests to be satisfied. If one party can get his/her needs met without the cooperation of the other, there will be little impetus to negotiate.
- Readiness to negotiate. People must be ready to negotiate for dialogue to begin. When participants are not psychologically prepared to talk with the other parties, when adequate information is not available, or when a negotiation strategy has not been
prepared, people may be reluctant to begin the process.
- Means of influence or leverage. For people to reach an agreement over issues about which they disagree, they must have some means to influence the attitudes and/or behavior of other negotiators. Often influence is seen as the power to threaten or inflict
pain or undesirable costs, but this is only one way to encourage another to change. Asking thought-provoking questions, providing needed information, seeking the advice of experts, appealing to influential associates of a party, exercising legitimate authority or providing rewards are all means of exerting influence in negotiations.
- Agreement on some issues and interests. People must be able to agree upon some common issues and interests for progress to be made in negotiations. Generally, participants will have some issues and interests in common and others that are of concern
to only one party. The number and importance of the common issues and interests influence whether negotiations occur and whether they terminate in agreement. Parties must have enough issues and interests in common to commit themselves to a joint
- Will to settle. For negotiations to succeed, participants have to want to settle. If continuing a conflict is more important than settlement, then negotiations are doomed to failure. Often parties want to keep conflicts going to preserve a relationship (a negative one may be better than no relationship at all), to mobilize public opinion or support in their favor, or because the conflict relationship gives meaning to their life. These factors promote continued division and work against settlement. The negative consequences of not settling must be more significant and greater than those of settling for an agreement
to be reached.
- Unpredictability of outcome. People negotiate because they need something from another person. They also negotiate because the outcome of not negotiating is unpredictable. For example: If, by going to court, a person has a 50/50 chance of winning, s/he may decide to negotiate rather than take the risk of losing as a result of a judicial decision. Negotiation is more predictable than court because if negotiation is successful, the party will at least win something. Chances for a decisive and one-sided victory need to be unpredictable for parties to enter into negotiations.
- A sense of urgency and deadline. Negotiations generally occur when there is pressure or it is urgent to reach a decision. Urgency may be imposed by either external or internal time constraints or by potential negative or positive consequences to a negotiation
outcome. External constraints include: court dates, imminent executive or administrative decisions, or predictable changes in the environment. Internal constraints may be artificial deadlines selected by a negotiator to enhance the motivation of another to settle. For negotiations to be successful, the participants must jointly feel a sense of urgency and be aware that they are vulnerable to adverse action or loss of benefits if a timely decision is not reached. If procrastination is advantageous to one side, negotiations are less likely to occur, and, if they do, there is less impetus to settle.
- No major psychological barriers to settlement. Strong expressed or unexpressed feelings about another party can sharply affect a person’s psychological readiness to bargain. Psychological barriers to settlement must be lowered if successful negotiations are to occur.
- Issues must be negotiable. For successful negotiation to occur, negotiators must believe that there are acceptable settlement options that are possible as a result of participation in the process. If it appears that negotiations will have only win/lose settlement possibilities and that a party’s needs will not be met as a result of participation, parties will be reluctant to enter into dialogue.
- The people must have the authority to decide. For a successful outcome, participants must have the authority to make a decision. If they do not have a legitimate and recognized right to decide, or if a clear ratification process has not been established,
negotiations will be limited to an information exchange between the parties.
- The agreement must be reasonable and implementable. Some settlements may be substantively acceptable but may be impossible to implement. Participants in negotiations
must be able to establish a realistic and workable plan to carry out their agreement if the final settlement is to be acceptable and hold over time.
- External factors favorable to settlement. Often factors external to negotiations inhibit or encourage settlement. Views of associates or friends, the political climate of public opinion or economic conditions may foster agreement or continued turmoil.
Some external conditions can be managed by negotiators while others cannot. Favorable external conditions for settlement should be developed whenever possible.
- Resources to negotiate. Participants in negotiations must have the interpersonal skills necessary for bargaining and, where appropriate, the money and time to engage fully in dialogue procedures. Inadequate or unequal resources may block the initiation of negotiations or hinder settlement.
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