At the heart of every negotiation is conflict. There is never an outcome in which everyone gets what they want.
However, it’s entirely possible to make compromises that ensure each party involved in a negotiation gets what they wanted the most.
This takes conflict resolution. Without it, negotiation is going to fall flat every time.
In this post, we discuss conflict resolution skills and the role that conflict resolution plays in negotiation.
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What Abilities Will Help You Implement Successful Conflict Resolution Skills?
Different approaches can be used when dealing with conflict, but not every approach will lead to a resolution. To manage conflict successfully, you need to possess certain skills and know when to use them.
The good news is that these are skills that can be practiced and improved over time. These five conflict resolution skills are what you’ll need to effectively manage conflict within negotiations.
Most people don’t like to be wrong. When backed into a corner, they’re likely to dig in their heels and fight back for what they believe in.
This is why patience is an essential skill in conflict resolution. While the problem may not be solved immediately, taking time to listen to each participant shows that you value each argument equally.
Even when you believe the answer to the problem is obvious, rushing to a resolution can make the other parties involved feel excluded from the decision-making process.
Slowing down and looking at all possible resolutions to a conflict usually results in making the right decision for the long term.
In every negotiation, the dynamics will be different. In some cases, past conflict may rear its ugly head, which can be damaging to all parties involved.
Whether you’re on one side of the negotiation or you’re acting as a mediator, remaining calm and being mindful of your tone is important. This can be difficult for most people, but not impossible.
Stay neutral with your communication while showing a desire to listen to the other party and you’ll be a lot less likely to trigger even more conflict.
Agreeing to the resolution of any issues within a negotiation is near impossible if no one is happy about it. Half-hearted compromises won’t motivate either party to follow through with their end of the bargain.
Maintaining a positive outlook while keeping your anger in check is the best way to keep a conversation moving forward. You’ll always run into roadblocks, but you need to be willing to overcome them if you want to come to any kind of solution.
A positive attitude goes a long way in making the other parties in the negotiation feel at ease. They’re more likely to be agreeable to your suggestions and compromises if they’re not wary of the interaction.
Emotional intelligence is defined as the ability to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.
The ability to perceive and understand the other party’s emotions as well as your own in negotiations is an essential skill. When you can effectively interpret the emotions of another, you can prevent situations from escalating.
Emotional intelligence allows us to recognize and curtail negative emotions such as anger and frustration and turn the tables. Ultimately, you want everyone involved in a negotiation to be thinking logically and creatively about a solution.
Active listening may very well be the most important conflict resolution skill of them all. When you focus your attention on what the other person has to say, it validates their purpose within the negotiation.
However, it requires practice to become a skilled active listener. You must enter into every negotiation with an open mind and open ears. Try not to let your goals and rebuttals distract you from what the other person is saying.
Pay attention to phrasing used by the other party and respond by paraphrasing or using the same wording. When you do this, you show the other person that you truly care about their side and value their points.
Active listening can also help clear up any confusion about the issues at hand, making it that much easier to reach an agreement or resolution.
What Role Does Conflict Play in Negotiation?
Negotiations are centered around conflict resolution. The outcome of any negotiation is likely to be the result of a few psychological factors, such as:
- How comfortable each party is with conflict
- The expectations and attitudes about the other
- Assumptions made about the other party and the conflict
- How important it is to each party to “win”
- How important it is for each party to avoid conflict
These factors will heavily influence what type of negotiation can be expected: distributive or integrative. In distributive negotiations, conflict can be helpful, but in integrative negotiations, it should be avoided.
When Can Conflict Be Helpful in Negotiation?
Distributive negotiation is a type of bargaining that results in a “winner” and a “loser.” These are low-trust and low-complexity negotiations that are considered to be conflict-infused.
In this type of negotiation, there are fixed resources that need to be divided or a single variable to argue over. The more one gets, the less the other gets.
Conflict is expected and can be used to the negotiator’s advantage. Many people are uncomfortable with conflict and look for ways to diffuse it, so they may be more likely to acquiesce in negotiation for this reason.
The strategies used in distributive negotiations include withholding information, forcing, and manipulating. After all, the entire goal is to increase your value while decreasing your opponent’s.
When Should You Avoid Conflict in Negotiation?
Integrative negotiations, on the other hand, involve a variable amount of resources that can be divided to ensure a “win-win” outcome. These are high-trust, high-complexity negotiations where conflict is typically avoided or immediately diffused.
Using open and honest communication, each party is creating value within the deal since the ultimate goal is to have both parties leave the negotiation feeling as though they gained something.
Strategies include mutual problem-solving, cooperation, and information sharing to maximize joint outcomes.
3 Helpful Business Conflict Resolution Skills
Even in the closest of negotiation relationships, things can get competitive, especially when it comes to money.
Avoiding conflict may seem impossible, but negotiations are most successful when all parties work together toward a common goal.
The Maker Group offers bespoke negotiation training solutions for every industry. We’ll equip your negotiation team with the tools, confidence, and skills required to maximize the value in every deal.
With our training, your team will learn how to disarm the competition with strategic conflict resolution skills aimed at moving negotiations forward.
Here are a few specific strategies we suggest for resolving conflict in business negotiations.
#1: Say What You Can Do, Not What You Can’t Do
Rather than responding to the other party with what you can’t do in a deal, let them know instead what you can do. Focus on the positive, rather than the negative. Positivity is far more likely to get you what you want in a deal.
For example, let’s say your buyer wants to purchase your product for $8/per unit, but you know you can’t sell it for any less than $10. Instead of saying you can’t do it, you could say:
“That price will be difficult for me, but I’ll tell you what I can do instead. I know that long-term commitment is important to you, so I’m going to sell you my product for $10, but I’m going to give you a three-year supply agreement to alleviate some of your long-term supply concerns.”
Not only does it appear as though you’re adding value to the other party’s offer, but it gets you the price you know you need without ever saying “I can’t”.
#2: Take an Offer Off the Table Without Saying No
Every negotiator has to deal with outrageous proposals at some point in their career. But an outright “no” can be damaging to long-term relationships, so negotiators need to stay neutral.
So instead of wiping their offer off the table, you can counter with what you would need to be true to accept their offer. For example:
“In order for me to sell you my product for $8 on a 10-year supply contract, I’m going to need a volume commitment of 50 million units per year and an order of my other product that you don’t currently buy in the amount of 10 million per year at $20 each.”
You didn’t say no to the offer and you remained neutral rather than getting upset or indignant toward the lowball offer. However, the other party probably won’t agree to your counteroffer. This makes their offer invalid without ever having to say no.
Not only does this make you appear more collaborative, but it will help keep the conversation going.
#3: Focus on Your Proposal, Not the Other Party’s
During negotiations, you should try to remain focused on YOUR proposal (what you’re willing to offer) rather than the other party’s. When you get caught up in talking about the negatives for the other party (what you can’t do), it can turn a deal sour.
Instead, steer the conversation back to your offer without disparaging theirs. Talk your offer up and be repetitive with what you’re putting on the table. For example:
“I hear you and I understand what you need. Here’s what I can do: $10/unit for three years. That’s what we can do. $10 for three years. Do we have a deal at $10 for three years?”
The more you talk about your proposal, the more likely you are to get the other party to come to your side. This is called the mere exposure effect. By repeating your offer multiple times, you’re creating recognition that triggers acceptance.
The Maker Group Can Help You Develop Business Conflict Resolution Skills and More
Not only must negotiators overcome uncertainty and rejection, but also conflict. With so much focus on “sealing the deal” tensions can run high and negotiations can quickly go sideways.
With conflict resolution skills training, negotiators can learn to turn conflict into collaboration — and The Maker Group can help.
Our team of expert commercial negotiators has experience training in every industry. Our training solutions are tailored to meet the specific demands and conflicts your negotiators face every day.
We understand the importance conflict resolution has on the success of negotiation and can teach your team how to overcome any objection without creating conflict.