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Communication Skills
Kamil Siddiqi

Conflict and Negotiation

Often communicating with others is joyful but, in case of a conflict, the same communication
becomes a pain-in-the-neck. It sometimes can lead to violence, resignation, divorce, or even
death. We shall therefore study about communicating in conflict situations, and negotiating our
way through to possible resolution.
Many of us go out of our way to avoid conflict and might characterize IDEAL RELATIONSHIPS as
free of arguments. However, by the time we become adults we have usually been at least a
witness to a great many conflicts both minor and intense. Few young people reach adulthood
without experiencing some conflict with their siblings, peers, or even parents. Conflict is not
something unusual.
Definition: conflict can be defined as an expressed struggle between two interdependent parties
others in achieving their goals.

Conflict Resolution
One of the best models for conceptualizing conflict resolution has been offered by Kilmann and
Thomas (1975). The model offers five basic styles of conflict resolution: (1) avoidance; (2)
competition; (3) compromise; (4) accommodation; and (5) collaboration. Let us look a bit at each
of these styles.
The first choice in trying to resolve conflict is whether or not to deal with it at all. The easiest
way is just to avoid it and not deal with it at all. In simple DENIAL, unelaborated statements are
made denying that there is a conflict (Whos fighting? I am not angry at all!).
UNDERRESPONSIVENESS is a failure to acknowledge or deny the presence of a conflict following a
statement or inquiry about the conflict by a partner: (I still dont think you have fixed the car.
What if it stalls again on the highway? Youll manage). In addition to shifting and avoiding
topics, other tactics you probably recognize include semantic focus, abstractness, joking,
ambivalence, and pessimism.
In the competition style of conflict, one party tries to use aggression or power to beat the other
party. The conflict is seen as a battleground. Competition may also be exhibited in an assertive
way rather than an aggressive way. The difference is whether or not you are injuring the other
party while trying to accomplish your goals. Competition may take the form of threats, criticisms,
confrontational remarks, or extreme language choices. One of the most competitive and forceful

of the strategies is prescription, which can take many forms. The confrontational person makes
requests or demands, threatens, or argues for a given behavior change in the other person that
presumably would resolve the conflict. The advantages of competition are that it can stimulate
creativity and energize people to a very high degree. The disadvantages of competition are that it
usually runs the risk of harming the relationship between the parties involved.
Many times, in order to resolve a conflict, both parties have to give in a bit so as to reach a
compromise solution. Negotiation means: Involving mutually acceptable tradeoffs. The key here
is that the tradeoffs must be mutually agreeable. One advantage of compromise is that it does
often lead to resolution of the conflict. A disadvantage is that it can be used as the easy way out.
Compromise does not involve a strong drive for the relationship and for the substantive goals, but
rather a halfhearted attempt to meet both.
In this style, the person suppresses his substantive needs and emphasizes harmony with the other
party. This approach is also called appeasement or smoothing over the conflict. This style has
the advantage in the short run or demonstrating to the other person our willingness to put the
relationship above our own selfish needs. The disadvantage is that the sacrifice may be one-sided
and the relationship will eventually suffer anyway.
Collaboration requires the highest level of commitment to the relationship of any of the conflictresolving styles. This is often very difficult to accomplish. The discussions continue until both
parties are satisfied. In the best cases, the relationship can be strengthened in the process.
Conflicts in which all concerned have a clear perception and understanding of their goals and
focus on a single delimited issue are more suited to a skills approach, but serious conflicts about
relationships are extremely difficult to disentangle. However, we believe the guidelines below are
helpful to improve your chances of successfully resolving conflict:

Pick your conflicts. Dont argue over everything.

Develop a reputation as someone who admits when you are wrong.
Provide an alternative for ideas you oppose. Dont knock down the ideas of others
without having something else to suggest.
Let the other person speak first. This will encourage the other person to listen better. You
will also gain insight into what it takes to satisfy them.
Base your statements on facts. Avoid exaggeration.
Dont lose your temper.
Avoid sarcasm, disbelief, caustic humor.
Develop a win-win-mentality. Aim to meet both your needs and the other persons. Avoid
simply trying to defend your position. Never try to win by destroying the other person.

Negotiation is another set of methods for resolving conflicts between and among people. It is
defined as: The process of resolving differences through mutually acceptable tradeoffs

Experts have identified the following six predictable steps in the negotiation process:

analyzing the negotiation situation

planning for the upcoming negotiation
gaining and maintaining control
closing the negotiations and
continuous improvement

In ANALYZING THE NEGOTIATION SITUATION, you can begin to establish what your objectives are
or what you hope to accomplish from the negotiation. For example, if you want to sell your used
car, how much do you need to feel that you have been successful?
You need to determine what your bottom line is, but you also need to determine an acceptable
range of alternatives just to give yourself some bargaining room. You should think about what the
other persons needs are. What attributes or benefits can you sell about your car that will help
meet this persons needs? Is it a buyers market or a sellers market? All of these are questions
that you will want to consider in your analysis.

In PLANNING FOR THE UPCOMING NEGOTIATIONS 50 percent of negotiation time is spent in
planning prior to the actual negotiation. The inexperienced negotiator tends to underestimate the
need for careful preparation.
Most negotiations revolve around three basic components, (1) money, (2) people, and (3)
timing. As you plan the negotiation, you should consider what goals you have for each of these
three key components.
In a formal negotiation you can begin to work out the structure of the negotiation with such items
as location: where will it take place? What will be the agenda (what points will be discussed)?
Who will be involved? When will the sessions occur? Who will take minutes or notes of the
agreements reached? How many sessions will there be? All these are items that may need to be
negotiated. During the Vietnam War era, it took 18 months for the two sides to agree on the shape
of the negotiating table and who the participants would be in the negotiations! A key thing to
remember is that everything is potentially negotiable.

The first thing in ORGANIZING is to determine who will be the most effective people for your
negotiation team. In a business setting, the sales and purchasing people may be supported by
legal, financial, or other technical experts. In common life situations, you may be negotiating
alone or you may bring a significant other. Often two heads are better than one.
The second thing is to develop your game plan. This involves determining your objectives for the
negotiation. If you are buying a home, some of your objectives should be (1) an affordable
purchase price, (2) occupancy date when you need it, (3) a good mortgage rate, (4) negotiating
what is included in the purchase price, and (5) perhaps, an inspection paid for by the seller.

Third, you should determine ahead of time your opening offer, then what you next offer might be,
and finally what is the highest you can afford to offer.
Fourth, you should conduct a mock negotiation to practice how you will react to issues brought
up by the other party.
Finally, expect surprises. Negotiation is by its very nature highly unpredictable!

In GAINING AND MAINTAINING CONTROL, sometimes negotiations can get out of control.
Emotions tend to escalate, voices are raised, positions become polarized, and agreement becomes
less and less likely to occur. One way to gain some control is to create the draft agenda. Then you
can ask for the reaction to it, and you may make adjustments. If you leave the agenda to the other
party, he or she will often gain control of not only the agenda but other items as well. A typical
agenda will include the following items:

Ground rules for the sessions
List of topics
Order of the topics
Length of time for each topic
Beginning and ending times

A good exercise would be for you to practice by creating an agenda for an upcoming negotiation
to develop your familiarity with this process.

In CLOSING THE NEGOTIATIONS agreements can be achieved if people are creative enough to
invent options that are not immediately obvious. We may be limited primarily by our own lack of
creativity. Once, a scholar was negotiating with a moving van company over the price of a crosscountry move. In order to save money in the cost of the move, the following items, among many
other, were brainstormed:

Packing some household items instead of having the movers do it

Packing boxes of bed linens
Shipping boxes of books instead of having them hauled in the moving van
Having a garage sale to cut down on the amount moved
Getting used boxes instead of buying new ones from the mover
Changing the type of insurance to reduce costs

However, the two parties still remained about $500 apart. So the moving company representative
came up with the idea of a customer endorsement and awarded the scholar a $500 discount if he
would write a letter as a satisfied customer, which the company could then use in their

advertising. This became an ingenious way to accomplish a very satisfying agreement for both

is perhaps the least often practiced step. Once the negotiation is
over, there is real value in going back over the process and analyzing ways to improve. You can
go back over each of the previous steps and look for things that could be done differently. For
example, were your objectives met? How well did your outcomes match your bottom line? Was
your planning sufficient? Did your organization plan work? How would you do it next time?
Were you able to gain and maintain control? If not, what did you learn that you could do more
effectively next time? How well were you able to close the negotiation? It has been said that the
mark of a really good negotiation is that both parties would come to the same agreement again if
they had it to do over. Keep in mind that people can negotiate for many years and still learn more
about it. Negotiation is a highly complex set of communication skills.