The Art of Negotiations

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BY SIMONE SMITH 

During these times, I am a very, very nervous citizen of the world. There are wars breaking out all over the world; coups in Turkey, the making of racial wars beginning right here in North America, it is a scary thing to see what this world is coming too. I was at an African History lecture put on by two brothers in the community David Rankin and Shadoozy. These brothers brought forth some powerful information and one of the things they discussed was how wars used to be handled in Ancient Africa. Both armies would meet at a designated place agreed upon by both chiefs. When the armies arrived, the chiefs would meet in the middle while the armies would stand back. The two chiefs would negotiate with each other, doing their best to negotiate and come to a decision that would not involve bloodshed. The armies would not move until they were commanded to. Many of these wars would end with the chiefs coming to an agreement over whatever they were arguing about. A settlement would be made and the armies would return to their homes.

When I heard this, I was pleased and then instantly disappointed. How things have changed; now everything seems to lead to bloodshed. Have we become more barbaric, more savage; have we regressed to our primitive selves? These are questions which have plagued me since Sunday. Is there a way to get back to this, or is this just wishful thinking? What makes for a good agreement? This article is going to briefly go over some of my thoughts regarding negotiation. Now, please feel free to share your thoughts on whatever is written. Collectively, we can start making changes in our community. It takes baby steps.

A good agreement is supposed to be one that improves both parties and is wise and efficient. These types of agreements are said to satisfy the interests of both parties and can be lasting if both parties hold true to their word. The goal is to develop a method for reaching good agreements; this most noted method is negotiation.  There are four principles of effective negotiation: Separate the people from the problem. Focus on interests rather than positions. Generate a variety of options before settling on an agreement. Insist that the agreement be based on objective criteria.

Let us take a brief look at these steps in order to see how each can be done effectively.

It is common for people to become personally involved with issues that may affect a position that they hold. They often see any opposing argument as a personal attack. Separating issues from personal feelings allows you to address the issues without damaging the relationship. Do this by clearly stating what the issue is and the intentions to dealing with it. Focus on the topic, not the feelings.  

Focusing on the interests rather than the position is done by early identification of each person’s interests. Interests differ between people, which could explain why they hold a position. Understanding of others allows you to have a clearer picture of why they feel the way they do.

Generating ideas can be seen as brainstorming sessions; they can be creative and productive, encouraging the parties to shift between four types of thinking, stating the problem, analyzing the problem, considering general approaches and considering specific actions.

All agreements made during negotiation must be made on objective criteria. The decisions should be based on reasonable standards and the criteria of the decisions should be legitimate and practical. Scientific findings, professional standards or legal precedent are possible sources of objective criteria.

Toronto, can we be the role models of the new generation. Can we start setting forward examples of how to conduct ourselves and sustain lasting relationships? I believe we can and I am here to help us do it. Stand up Toronto!

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