- Compiled and Written by Sele Michael (Msc Class, May 2017)

Multilateral Negotiation is a negotiation procedure, where more than two parties are involved, i.e. multiple clients and/or providers negotiate simultaneously.

Negotiation is a method by which people settle differences. It is a process by which compromise or agreement is reached while avoiding argument and dispute. It is a dialogue between two or more people or parties intended to reach a beneficial outcome over one or more issues where a conflict exists with respect to at least one of these issues.

Multilateral Negotiation ensures that in any disagreement, countries understandably aim to achieve the best possible outcome for their position (or perhaps an organisation they represent). However, the principles of fairness, seeking mutual benefit and maintaining a relationship are the keys to a successful outcome.
Negotiation can be categorized in different ways. Below are some Methods of Negotiation;

A.   Integrative/Distributive

If we distinguish between integrative and distributive negotiations, we are saying that the parties are looking for different things as they approach the negotiation. Integrative negotiations are commonly referred to as “win-win.” In this type of negotiation, each side is working towards a solution where everyone wins something. They can make tradeoffs, look at multiple issues, and try to expand the pie rather than divide it. Integrative negotiations foster trust and good working relationships.

Distributive negotiations are referred to as “win-lose.” One party gets what they want, and the other party has to give something up. This can be the case when you negotiate a lease on office space, for example. If you feel like you got a good deal and the property manager had to give something up for you, you “won.” If you feel like the property manager had the upper hand and you got ripped off, you “lost.” The parties’ interests often seem to be opposed (although this may not be the case once you look at things creatively), and so this type of negotiation does not lead to lasting or positive relationships.

B.   Inductive/Deductive/Mixed

The inductive method involves starting on small details and working upward until a settlement is reached. This can be the case where, for example, an employer and labor union are negotiating the details of an employee pension and investment plan. Small details are addressed one at a time.

Deductive negotiations start with an agreed upon strategy. They rely on established principles and a formula to frame the negotiation while the parties work out the details.

Mixed negotiations are the most common; they are a blend of inductive and deductive methods.

 C.   Soft/Hard/Principled

Soft and hard bargaining involves negotiating a position rather than interests. To avoid some of the common problems associated with bargaining over positions, negotiators who take a soft approach treat the participants as friends, seeking agreement despite great cost, and offering concessions as a way to create or preserve a positive relationship with the other side.

A soft bargainer behaves transparently, sharing their bottom line, which can leave them vulnerable to a hard bargainer who is competitive, hides their bottom line, and offers few concessions, if any. In a negotiation between a soft and hard bargainer, the hard approach will almost always come out with a much better deal.

In their book “Getting to Yes”, Roger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton recommend principled negotiation, instead of hard vs. soft, because principled negotiation relies on interests rather than positions.

D.   Alternative Dispute Resolution

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) continues to be a popular alternative to negotiation. If negotiations stall, the result can often be a move to arbitration or litigation. However, arbitration and litigation can be expensive and time-consuming undertakings. Either of them can result in a solution that neither party is happy with (a “lose-lose”), and both processes are full of friction.

ADR is an alternative that allows the negotiating parties to utilize a formal dispute resolution process. Using mediators or facilitation, parties work through the process together and try to come up with a winning solution. One factor that makes ADR different is the idea that the negotiating partners must be satisfied with the outcome. If a stalemate results with proper use of ADR, then the negotiations can move to arbitration or litigation as a last resort.

Some barriers to Negotiation are;
1.    Die-hard bargainers
2.    Lack of trust
3.    Informational vacuums and negotiator's dilemma
4.    Structural impediments
5.    Spoilers
6.    Cultural and gender difference.
7.    Communication problems 
8.    The power of dialogue.

Die-hard bargainers (their viewing negotiations as a battle): A person who vigorously maintains or defends a seemingly hopeless position, outdated attitude, lost cause or the like. Negotiations should be about finding solutions and adding value for all parties, not about winning or losing. As soon as we view the customer as the opponent, we compromise our ability to empathize and get into their “Odds Are” to identify mutually beneficial outcomes.

Lack of trust: In principled negotiation one may assume different positions and would not affect trust, lack of trust arise when the final agreement is reached and there is doubt on the other parties’ ability to fulfill them in the end.

Informational vacuums and negotiator's dilemma: when information is document based and not discussed verbally the negotiators have the possibility of not understanding the documents or not reading the entire document and this can result information vacuum and an exposure to the negotiator who would turn down implementation where there be.

Structural impediments: This can be understood as aspects of the external environment that limit negotiating options, to the extent that there are no possible points of agreement. Although one has to gather structural impediments as these are sometimes unforeseen and cannot be changed such as ethical and cultural beliefs.

Spoilers: Steadman (father of the spoilers debate) identified spoilers as leaders and parties who use violence to undermine attempt to achieve peace. He identified two types of spoilers, inside and outside spoiler. Inside spoiler are those parties or actors who are included in the peace negotiations and who “show a willingness” to reach solution but who later “fail to fulfill key obligations to an agreement”. Whereas outside spoiler are those actors or parties who are excluded, for whatever reason, actively or unwittingly from the negotiation process.

Cultural and gender differences: A traditional male negotiator is competitive, unemotional and has the winning mentality consistent with Distributive bargaining while a traditional female negotiator is cooperative, equalitarian and empathetic. In some cultures the reverse is the same, when a woman becomes a distributive negotiator against expectations, there arise a barrier.

Communication problems: Without been able to convey information, you would not be able to negotiate. Negotiation depends on information. Break down of communication either verbal or non verbal is disruptive to negotiation process.

The power of dialogue: This requires certain skills a negotiator must apply in the negotiation process. If he does not communicate effectively in certain manner he would not be able to successfully dialogue with parties. Some of the negotiator learning objectives should be, practice ways of speaking, listening and asking questions that foster sincere curiosity about an opponent and open up conversation, understand the gap speaker’s intention and impact in communicating with other amongst other skill set for dialogue.

Jelilov, G. (2015). An Outlook of the Recent Entrepreneurship and Economic Problems in Nigeria: An Expatriate Perspective.


Jelilov, G. (2016). THE IMPACT OF INTEREST RATE ON ECONOMIC GROWTH EXAMPLE OF NIGERIA. African Journal of Social Sciences,51-64

S.J. Stedman, “Negotiation and Mediation in internal conflicts” in M. E. Brown(ed), The international dimension of internal conflict (Cambridge: MIT press, 1996) pp.369-371.
 S.J. Stedman, ‘Spoiler problem in Peace processes’ in international security, Vol. 22, No.2 (1997) pp. 8



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