The Language of Negotiation: A Handbook of Practical Strategies for Improving Communication

By Joan Mulholland | Go to book overview

Introduction

Begin at the beginning, the King said, gravely, and go on till you come to the end: then stop.

(Lewis Carroll)


GENERAL

Negotiation as a social activity ranges from such examples as discussion of the daily distribution of work within an office, through an inter-firm disagreement over an ambiguous contractual detail, to organising a massive sales campaign aimed at an overseas market. Every negotiation is constituted of language, is a set of social behaviours enacted within the domain of language. Every utterance made and every text written within a negotiation is an act with repercussions on the outcome. While such acts cannot solve some of the problems of business, such as high interest rates or declines in sales, they can solve the problems of misunderstanding which arise from language use and can always improve the conduct of a negotiation. Therefore it is important for negotiators to recognise the power of language and to understand its potentialities as a negotiating instrument. With this knowledge they can radically improve the effectiveness of their negotiating skills. A fuller awareness of how language functions in communication can lead to several useful outcomes: in general terms it allows for greater creativity at both personal and institutional levels, and in specific terms it improves the quality of a participant’s contributions to a particular negotiation, and assists in the accurate reading of others’ negotiating strategies.

Competence in negotiation cannot be achieved by following a list of rules or using any one particular set of tactics, but rather it comes about when people acquire a sensitivity to the factors in language that affect negotiation, when they develop a personal repertoire of skills based on this sensitivity, and can adapt those skills in a flexible manner to suit the needs of a particular negotiation. The process to be undergone begins in acquiring cognitive awareness and continues by self-monitoring, and skilled practice.

-xi-

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