When two or more parties or people have differing opinions, conflict negotiation is often necessary. In the business world, the conflict might be over things such as contract wording, terms of a sale or just differences in personalities or work styles. No matter what type of problem, the main issue typically is exemplified in a standoff, during which neither side wants to back down. Sometimes called mediation, conflict negotiation usually involves bringing in a third party to foster communication between the disputants, talking about solutions and creating an agreement that meets both parties’ needs. The most successful types of conflict negotiations are resolved with win-win solutions, which are resolutions that are mutually satisfying for everyone involved.
Many companies train their management teams and human resources professionals in conflict negotiation. There are several types of strategies and techniques used to resolve conflicts. Most people agree that the first step is clear identification of the issue. This step can be very important, because many conflicts are the result of poor communication and misunderstandings. Effective conflict negotiators are excellent listeners who are trained to hear what each party wants as the final outcome.
After the problem has been identified and the negotiator has full understanding of the motives of all parties, he or she can begin to look for ways for the parties to come to a compromise. This phase of conflict negotiation usually involves talking to each party separately to learn what they are willing to “give up” and the issues on which they will not back down. At this point, the negotiator typically creates a revised contract or agreement by incorporating the agreed-upon compromises. Sometimes, the actual meaning of the original contract does not change, but the particular wording or phrasing that might have triggered the conflict is changed. The mediator then presents the new draft to both parties to see if an agreement can be reached.
If a compromise is not agreed upon with the new draft, the conflict negotiation typically moves into a new phase of alternative compromises and solutions. For example, if party No. 1 wants Solution A and party No. 2 wants Solution B, the negotiator might suggest a Solution C, which might incorporate parts of Solutions A and B but often involves a completely different end solution. This way, both parties do not feel that the opposing party won the conflict or got its way. If the parties do not agree at this point, then the conflict negotiation typically moves into arbitration or litigation.