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Like it or not, you are a negotiator

Roger Fisher and William Ury, say that negotiation is a fact of life –“You discuss with your Boss, you try to agree with a stranger on a price for a house, two lawyers try to settle a lawsuit arising from a car accident, a group of oil companies plan a joint venture exploring for offshore, a city official meets with union leaders to avert a strike – All these are negotiations”.

According to City Press dated 24.08.2009: “For most job seekers, the art of negotiation comes into play at two specific times in their careers: during an interview and at their performance evaluation”
Some negotiations, also, operate on a grand scale, with discussions about company, cars, relocation, etc. But most of us focus on one issue which is salary.

What do I mean by above? Everyone negotiates something everyday!

Now what is negotiation?

There are numerous definitions and let’s look at few below:

Negotiation is a form of decision making in which two or more parties talk with one another in an effort to resolve their opposing interests... a process by which a joint, decision is made by two or more parties. (Pruitt 1981)

Negotiation is a process for resolving conflict between two or more parties, whereby both or all modify their demands to achieve a mutually acceptable, compromise. - A process of adjusting both parties’ views of their ideal outcome to an attainable outcome. (Kennedy et al 1987).

Recurrent themes: are evident in all the different definitions allowing the following elements to be Identified as core to negotiations, it is a verbal interactive process, involving two or more parties, who are seeking to reach an agreement, over a problem or conflict of interest between them and in which they seek as far as possible to preserve their interests, but adjust their views and positions - in the joint effort to achieve an agreement.

Stages of negotiation process
There are a number of ways to describe the various procedures followed by negotiators. However, we believe that most negotiations can be seen as a loosely ordered sequence of six distinct stages or phases which can be presented in the following simple format:

  1. Preparation
    You cannot afford to face negotiations, been unprepared.
  2. Developing Strategy
    Sit down and think about strategies that you can employ during the process.
  3. Getting started
    Agree on rules of the game.
  4. Building Understanding
    Teams or parties build rapport.
  5. Bargaining
    Start the process and apply the strategies- be prepared to constantly modify your plans.
  6. Closing
    Finalise agreement.

It is clear that with the economic meltdown coupled with other life challenges, we will need more skills or tools to use as a guide before we embark on any process of negotiation. During the month of March 2009, I was tuned to a radio station and I heard the Secretary General of COSATU saying that this year’s negotiations will be the most difficult ones; therefore, negotiators cannot afford to, not prepare and/or expect challenges. The above six stages comes handy and as Fisher and Ury say, we “day-to- day negotiators” may apply it at home, social setting and workplace activities.

Conclusion: In our next series, we will zoom into “Getting to YES Negotiating Agreement without Giving In”. The Sub-themes will be: The Problem, The Method, Yes But and Conclusion. So watch the space!