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Maiese (2006, p. 465) defines negotiation as a process of interaction between two or more parties. In this process, these parties try to communicate with one another in an effort to resolve disputes. The parties may have differences and they try to reach to some form of agreement that will hold and this agreement is based upon common interests. There are different phases of negotiation defined by many authors. The main common phases of negotiation are; preparation, proposal, bargaining and closing phases.
The main aim of negotiation is to resolve conflicts. Identifying the different phases of negotiation help us to understand and develop negotiation. I am in support of this statement because during these processes the conflicting parties often and up understanding each other more (Barry M.et al, 2004 p. 10). They also manage to reason well during negotiation unlike the parties which do not negotiate. By identifying the different phases of negotiations, individuals are able to learn the skills of negotiation. By learning the skills, parties will be able to handle difficult situations that are conflicting and also enhance their potential for meeting their life goals and become effective human beings.
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In the preparation stage, issues are identified and agendas are set by the parties. The objectives of preparation stage is to state all goals that should be achieved during the negotiation process. Both parties try to learn more about their opponents. People in these parties must know issues such as political, legal and economic that are of intersect to the other party. The preparation stage is critical because it is the one that determines the success of the negotiation process. The negotiator usually assesses interests before negotiation. This enables better evaluation of options and also enables one to analyze the primary tasks of negotiation (Shenkar & Ronen, 2007 p. 425).
The information obtained during this stage may be acceptable alternative like what if the dispute is not settled, the parties should also be aware of the general matter at hand. They should be familiar with the characteristic of this matter, their wants and needs and possible options available. For example striking workers who negotiate with their employers have to be prepared with information such as what are organizations are paying for the same job group and also how their company is performing in the industry (Swann, 1997 p. 1130). This preparation stage in negotiation helps one to understand that negotiation is a process and one cannot just go and sit with negotiators without being prepared. A negotiator must ask opening question to establish their bottom line. By preparing, a negotiator usually puts himself in the shoes of the other side, and asks himself what will happen if they did not reach an agreement with this side. This usually leads to a better understanding of the negotiation process. The preparation stage helps in predicting the negotiation stage and the parties are prepared to win, lose or reach a mutual agreement.
According to Shenkar & Ronen (2007 p. 430), the proposal phase, the two conflicting parties begin to give out their wants and priorities. The parties explain their needs to their opponents and in turn learn their opponents' needs as well. This forms the basis for the bargaining climate. The main aim of this process is to establish where the party is prepared to move ground and where it is not prepared. In the proposal phase, there can be an establishment of alternative wants. The proposals are invariably conditional and take the form of 'if / then'. In the proposal stage, the other part is able to give a clear explanation of their wants and priorities through clear explanation. The party's proposals are critically examined and the responses to them are put in place. For example a lecture who is negotiating with his students over a make-up class may want the students to give him a reason why they do not want to have a make up class. This proposal is not different from the one given in the books because it uses the 'if/then' form. The lecturer may proposal a certain hour and if the students don make it, they will fail the test or they will lose a mark for attendance (Butler, 209 p. 340). The student may in turn propose a good idea to the lecturer like moving the lesson to a flexible hour where every on will attend. Thus this proposal phase is not different in a classroom situation.
The proposal phase helps us to understand and develop the phases of negotiation better in that a proposal is the only thing that can be negotiated. The proposal forms the basis for negotiation which an argument or grievance cannot. A proposal is specific in that one party for instance the lecturer, clearly states what they want the other party, students, to do and what they are going to do in return. The proposal can be written or oral. By identifying this phase, a skill is mastered and a student can be able to negotiate not only in the classroom but also in the outside world (Barker, 2000 p. 200).
The bargaining phase is another important phase of negotiation. This phase uses the 'if you will, then I will'. It is a phase where concessions are exchanged. The concessions are never given away for free rather they are traded. It consists of discussing specific proposals (Pienaar, 2009 p. 70). During the bargaining process, the parties which are negotiating begin with unrealistic goals that can not be settled. There are explanations that ere given why they want such goals. The negotiators try to convince their opponents either in the right or wrong way that there will be no more concessions made.
The negotiators state what they must get or what they are willing to offer on their side. In this phase the negotiating parties try to bring forward their own interests. The parties which do no have firm goals before they enter the bargaining phase may lose to opponents who are using their skills to influence in an unfair manner (Maiese, 2006 p. 470). The parties try to give their offers to their opponents and if there is any miscalculation in the deal value to be negotiated by one party, that deal will be disclosed. By identifying such a difficult phase of negotiation, one is able to develop a better skill of confronting such difficult issues and when faced with a similar situation, they can always find solutions to such problems. The bargaining stage helps to develop negotiation well because this stage will make individuals to develop skills like patience ands silence. These are the most powerful tools in negotiation. This case of bargaining is not different from the classroom scenario where students may be having an argument about a certain character in a book or a certain scholar (Rogan, 2005 p. 360).
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Kennedy (2005, p. 60) affirms that closing the deal is the last stage of negotiation process. By identifying this phase, one learns how to close deals or reach an agreement with opponents. It is the most delicate phase of negotiation. Parties know exactly what they have agreed to. If the parties have failed to reach to a decision, another negotiation episode might occur in future. Most of the agreement is written. This stage is not common in the classroom scenario. In the classroom, an agreement has to be made, for example in the discussion groups. Most discussion groups have to look for references when negotiating over certain topics or issues. If it is an assignment, they have no alternative to develop negotiation again because they might have no time to discuss such an assignment again. The closing of deals can be found in student leaders meetings with university council over certain student issues.
I would therefore conclude that by identifying the phases of negotiation, it will help us understand and develop negotiation. These phases help us to have good negotiation practice. Negotiation is very useful especially when resolving differences between parties that have common motive in settling their differences (Kumar, 2004 p. 207). By identifying the phases of negotiation, we are equipped with better negotiating skills and we become better prepared to deal with other disputing parties. For example, by identifying the preparation phase we are equipped with knowledge of what the preparation phase entails and what is required in this phase. This phase enables us to know what goals are required incase we have disputes to solve, what to expect from our opponents and how to achieve these goals (Cutcher-Gershenfeld, J. et al, 2009 p. 345).
In the proposal stage we are equipped with better communication skills because we learn that the proposal phase is the one where we see the skills of our opponents and how they communicate back to us. By identifying this phase, we develop negotiation because it is the basis for negotiation (Rogan, 2005 p. 362). We cannot jump to bargaining phase without pointing our needs first and giving explanations why we want such goals. In this phase, wants and needs are defined clearly and openly by both parties. We not only develop negotiation but identify it as well. It is through the proposal stage that the bargaining phase follows because as the parties start to give out their need and wants, the other parties give theirs as well and arguments start to follow. This argument leads to agreement and finally the negotiation is over. That is why identifying the main phases of negotiation helps us to develop and understand the negotiation.