Elements of Complexity for the Negotiator

When negotiating, we have to learn to differentiate between what is complex and what is difficult. A complex negotiation does not have to be difficult. A complex negotiation is basically a negotiation in which many actors participate or there are several objects of negotiation. A difficult one may only have two actors and a single object of negotiation, but the negotiator and the context can be difficult.

Example of complexity: Imagine that you are a car salesman and I want to buy 100 units of cars from you. What’s more, I want them in six months and I also want all 100 vehicles to be different from each other. This in itself is not difficult, but it is complex for all that it entails.

Example of difficulty: a buyer wants to buy a single car but it will be difficult because he will manipulate, coerce, attack and intimidate the seller to get what he wants.

The definition of complexity presents several spheres of action:

  • What the role or job to fulfil is.
  • What the characteristics of that role or job are.
  • What knowledge and/or experience one must have in order to carry out that role or job.
  • What degree of difficulty is involved in doing it (which is different from talking about knowledge).

Complexity refers to observable elements that are either external or linked to the degree of expert knowledge that one must possess to do so.

Difficulty deals with the execution of the work or the function to be performed, calibrating the level of know-how and the application of knowledge that we have previously discussed in complexity in order to carry it out.

There is complexity without difficulty (what may be complex for someone may not be for someone else who is fully trained and prepared) and there is also difficulty without complexity (like buying a car, as discussed above).

When negotiating, there are different elements that can be complex for you as a negotiator.

Prominent ones include:

  • Several negotiators are involved.
  • There are different stages of the negotiation.
  • There are several different negotiating parties.
  • There are various cultures present.

Group negotiations

In business negotiations, you often work in a group. Doing it this way has advantages and disadvantages, as well as a special strategy in which everyone must collaborate. You should avoid improvisation in the group at all costs, since if it is difficult to improvise individually, it is even harder in a group.

To avoid improvisation, below is a list of aspects that you should take into account when negotiating in a group:

  • Share a common idea of what you want to achieve.
  • Communicate your information: the facts, the data, the tactics, the people involved, etc.
  • Define who will be the spokesperson.
  • Develop each member’s role.
  • Propose a provisional agreement.
  • Respect team discipline: never criticise and, if necessary, ask for a suspension of the session.
  • Decide the internal rules of operation.
  • Spend time recapitulating with the entire group.
  • Consider dividing the group if the members are valuable.
  • Involve an expert if necessary.
  • Choose a member of the group to act as an observer and analyse how you work from the outside.
  • Promote group unity.

Negotiations in multiple stages

For most people, the word negotiation evokes two people seated at a table who begin and end the negotiation on the same day. This image is real, but it is sometimes more complex than it seems: multi-stage negotiations and the prospect of future transactions offer important advantages to cooperating parties that convey confidence with projection into the future.

In these negotiations, the first stages allow you to establish a good relationship, get acquainted with the other party and lay the foundations for the following negotiations.

If the first agreements are not respected, the rest of the negotiation will be complicated, causing discomfort and mistrust among the participants.

Multiparty negotiations

In general, negotiations usually encompass more than two negotiators and over two parties. Multiparty negotiations differ from classical negotiations in one very important respect: the possibility of creating a coalition.

As in bipartite negotiations, it is also important that you patiently and carefully analyse each party’s interests, goals and relationships.

So keep in mind that:

  • Preparation for these types of negotiations is more complicated.
  • A natural coalition is difficult to break because it is usually very strong.
  • An opportunist coalition is easier to break because it is more fragile. The parties do not agree on everything and continuing to negotiate requires effort.

International negotiations

There are two types of international negotiations: private (between companies) and public (between diplomats). The complexity of such negotiations depends on the multiculturalism of the parties involved.

Apart from international differences, cultural ones also appear. It is obvious that it is not negotiated in the same way in the United States as in Japan, and these differences are increasingly significant due to globalisation. But there are also cultural differences within a company (between the legal and marketing department) or generational ones.

Example: A lawyer negotiates differently than an architect and a 70-year-old man will do it differently than someone who is 25.

Some solutions to these types of international negotiations are:

  • Prepare more than ever.
  • Listen more than ever.
  • If you deem it necessary, it is better to have a local expert with you.
  • As a last option, let another local negotiator represent you and prepare for the negotiation with him or her.
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