What do you think?

— Are negotiations without conflicts impossible?

Hand on heart, Are you familiar with thoughts like: “I’m now explaining it to the other negotiating party for the third time! Do they not want to understand me or can’t they understand me? Are they really that stupid or are they just pretending?” If you are, you’re bound to be familiar with the consequences too: unproductive conversations, hardened attitudes, conflicts and therefore no or poor solutions.

Negotiation is about achieving goals and, ideally, achieving the goals of all the negotiating parties involved. Conflicts prevent this.

Conflict potential 1: “Power games based on inner size ratios”

We all carry internal images in our heads. They determine our thoughts, feelings and actions, and we use them to decide the “size ratios” between us and parties we negotiate with. There are negotiating parties we simply do not like and do not (cannot or don’t want to) take seriously. There is a stronger party and a weaker one, a more powerful party and a less powerful one – with all the resulting consequences. When one party elevates itself and looks down on the other, their will to understand the other party dwindles. The negotiation is no longer about developing a creative solution, because both parties are preoccupied with their own ego. The shrunken party will try to protect their ego and retaliate, while the bigger party will try to defend their position. The original subject of the negotiation becomes less important and a battle of egos takes its place.

Key attitude 1: “emotional equality”

The inner attitude of negotiating on an equal footing and respecting the party you’re negotiating with despite them being different creates the foundation for added-value-oriented negotiation results. Emotional equality saves you from wasting time on a battle of egos and prevents lots of conflicts. It enables honest information to be exchanged, which is the basis for sustainable solutions.

Conflict potential 2: “Wanting to use arguments to convince the other party”

Many negotiators consider stocking up on arguments one of the most important parts of their preparation. They then enter the negotiating ring fully loaded and ammunitioned. Arguing is risky because as long as you are talking, you will not learn anything from the other party and may give away highly sensitive information recklessly.

Arguing also has the potential to cause conflict, because a party who argues assumes they are right and wants to dissuade the other party from doing “wrong”. They want to cause the other party to change their “incorrect” views.

Key attitude 2: “Asking questions instead of arguing”

Asking questions that indicate interest only has advantages in negotiations: You are receiving information while not revealing any information of your own. You are showing the party you’re negotiating with that you have taken an interest in them, their views and their needs. You are showing equality, which is the key to joint negotiating success.

Conflict potential 3: “Landmine subjects”

Negotiation subjects or parts of subjects that have remained unresolved in previous negotiations or even led to conflict can become stressful and tense subjects in the next negotiation situation. Such landmine subjects often have a devastating effect in negotiations, because they only need to be touched on lightly to explode.

Key attitude 3: “Removing landmines”

Landmine subjects should either be addressed and resolved individually before the negotiation or deliberately avoided. An appropriate mood and atmosphere are required for this conscious approach, as are sufficient time and a conversation held solely between the negotiators involved.