Creative strategies in negotiations, pt. 2

Dear reader.

Good to see that you are coming back for more. And, as promised, the second part of my exploration of creative ways to unlock negotiations from being frozen. Here are a few more  innovative ways on how to deal with difficult parties, difficult topics, or difficult strategic decisions.

c) Change the realm in question

(1) switching from a political to a technical solution. A technical solution to a political problem can be sought. This is especially useful when dealing with issues around water ways, upstream and downstream issues, and general conflicts around water and environment.

(2) switching from a political to an economic solution. A free trade zone or agreement is the best way to address the issue.

(3) switching from the preconditions for negotiation to their implication. IF an adversary’s preconditions for negotiation are unacceptable to a party, that part or a mediator can get talks under way by arranging a meeting to examine the implications of the precondition. In smaller scale conflict, this can be done through caucus or shuttle diplomacy. On the international level, it is best to bring technical committees together in order to fashion the ground work for subsequent talks.

(4) conversion of intangible goals to tangible ones. As you may have heard on many occasions, it is never useful to negotiate intangibles, such as belief systems, values, ideologies or on the basis of religion. Sometimes the intangible can be changed to the tangible as when someone who has damaged another’s reputation agrees to make a monetary payment for the damage. This move may only be working in a few contexts.

d) Reveal new facts or meanings

(1) discovering the opponent’s domain of validity. Both Rapoport and Deutsch have debated this move. A possible step is for each side to find out on what grounds the other side could possibly be convinced of the truth of its own views. After one side has found out what views or pictures of reality its adversaries hold in their minds, they must try to discover the domain of validity of each such view. This is akin to be “putting yourself into someone else’s shoes’. However the range of cases where this move works is rather limited and bound to parties’s needs and preferred style to manage conflicts.

(2) the trollope ploy. One accepts an offer never clearly made. Based on perceived threats and benefits, leading a party to reject a second proposal for something that has never been proposed.

Strategy 3: Change up where things are involved

a) Integrate or assimilate

(1) formation of a security community, e.g. Regional Economic Communities, the European Union, Canadian-American Integration, the African Union.

(2) “if you can’t beat them, join them”, e.g. the way the American Congress works. Or how in- and outgroups in companies behave.

b) Disintegrate or separate – separation of the unacceptable, i.e. actions that would be unacceptable to the parties if done together can be done separately. Sometimes, joint commissions in resolving water management issues are not working precisely because of a lack of institutional knowledge and capacity on both sides of a river-basin. Yet, parties could start with their own capacity-building and still share information under a bilateral agreement.

Strategy 4: Vary when things are involved

a) Propose a resolution of a dispute early

(1) the insurance principle. This hints to the establishment of rules to deal with conflicts before the power relations and the winners and losers are known. Rawls states that justice defined as fairness is more likely to prevail this way because free and rational persons concerned to further their own interests would accept an initial position of equality as defining the fundamental terms of their association. The Law of the Sea conference in Caracas produced remarkable unity, at least among the nonaligned nations, probably in part because they did not know much about the distances from their shores at which the greatest resource deposits in the ocean bed can be found.

(2) minor powers’ concerted appeal to major powers’ best intentions. Before major powers with aggressive programs have proposed a resolution, a coalition of minor powers with a peaceful program can sponsor a resolution at the U.N. or elsewhere. Then the major powers may be inclined to support peaceful resolution, lest their image be damaged. Creativity may be sacrificed to peacefulness in this approach.

b) Postpone the resolution of a dispute while trying to build trust

(1) identification and ignoring of intractable issues. Difficult issues can be left for future negotiations, allowing settlement of common interests right away. This is a typical approach for a Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). The CPA between the Government of Sudan and the Government of South Sudan, leading to South Sudan’s secession and independence, didn’t deal with issues such as border or citizenship issues. This was left to subsequent implementation agreements.

(2) incremental change. Rather than defining objectives and then examining a range of possible options to fulfill them, an administrator or council can adopt a change that moves an organization forward by a small amount and avoids conflict because it is offensive to none of the constituencies. The assumption is that large changes would be too disruptive to the delicate balance of entrenched policies. Many of the U.N. actions are incremental, such as the progress of human rights in many steps.

(3) the seizing of opportunities to carry out secret policies. Top business operatives tend to tell no one their specific goals (contrary to what research on leadership suggests). They wait for opportunities to carry out those goals. Conflicts over these goals are thus minimized and acceptance of them is secured through careful selection of ripe opportunities – that is through support of actions by subordinates that move the organization toward the executive’s goals.

c) Postpone the resolution of a dispute while trying to build disgust of a cooling off of tension

(1) disgust-building. A dispute can be continued until one or both sides would rather liquidate it than gain a victory.

(2) holding action. Instead of responding militarily to a minor attack on or blockade of one’s territory, it can be fruitful simply to reinforce the territory and leave the initiative to the opponent to mount a full-scale attack on the territory – an attack the opponent may avoid. Not always conducive to peace.

d) Untie a double bind – simultaneous, interdependent actions, ie actions can be taken simultaneously that would otherwise not happen because each depends on the other’s having occurred.

End of part 2

Author: nakawashi9

International mediator, professor, corporate trainer!

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