Negotiations and how to argue constructively

This was a discussion with Eveliina Asikainen. Negotiations, debates and discussions are unavoidable. Eveliina has to deal with that in her advocacy work for more sustainability at TAMK. She started her presentation about negotiations and how to argue constructively by presenting different types of conflicts that can arise during negotiations or even in simple conversations.

A conflict could be caused on the level of:
- Information/ communication
- Relationship (emotions, needs)
- Interests
- Values (not negotiable)
- Structures

Very often such conflicts might be related to power, territory, competition or performance (observation shared by Eva).
Independently of the source of conflict, it is important to set a common ground and focus on common interests in order to argue constructively and to tackle the conflict successfully.
For that, it is essential to be self-aware of one’s own use of language (verbal and body language) and generally self- reflective about how one talks and interacts.
Respect, empathy and authenticity are key on that matter. Practicing these key elements and active listening sounds easy, but it requires work and self-discipline (same for NVC or deep communication).

Furthermore, Eveliina introduced to the three modes of persuasion:
Logos (speech)
Appeal to logic

Ethos (character)
Ethical approval

Pathos (emotions)
Emotional approach

In her job, she said it helps her a lot that when standing in front of an audience, to think about the individuals sitting there and to focus on individual connections which the persons of the audience. She also said that in persuasion and negotiation, another key element is patience.

The second part was then a bit more theoretical about conflict resolution strategies (see graph below) and problem-solving negotiation which is based on the following steps:
1. Knowing my own interests
2. Structuring my interactions
3. Identifying what is negotiable and what is not

Here it is important to focus on interests and not on positions (your own and the opponent’s ones). Also one should be aware of the purpose of the negotiation (for instance: Is it a good relation or winning an argument?) and think about one’s BATNA= best alternative to a negotiated agreement beforehand. I am personally very fascinated by negotiation skills, tips and tricks, because even though all of it sounds very simple and one thinks that most of the above-mentioned would happen intuitively, this is not true. I believe in many work environments and even in educational environments there is a lack of empathy and active listening.

Mirjam Schwitter (Feb. 2020)