Negotiation and conflict management

Managing and resolving conflicts demands that you develop the ability to communicate effectively, listen actively, and resolve issues with a sense of fairness for all. Serving on committees, planning your program of studies with your advisor, or negotiating deadlines with your students all involved using some level of negotiation skills; several of these experiences might have also included conflicts of interest and a power differential between you and other individuals.

Michael Erdle, a chartered arbitrator, mediator and facilitator for Practical Resolutions Inc., outlines three basic levels of negotiation: power, rights, and interest.

  1. Power: Negotiations that rely on power often are based on threats and coercion. This type of negotiation has a negative impact on the relationship between parties.
  2. Rights: Negotiation based on contracts and precedent often lead to legal action; this approach can be costly and time consuming.
  3. Interest: According to Erdle, interest-based negotiations are the ideal approach because they often involve good communication and result in a win-win situation. 

In the diagram below, Erdle aptly illustrates how each level can either escalate or de-escalate the potential for conflict.

According to Erdle, when conflicts of interest arise, it’s best to enter in to an interest-based negotiation to ensure positive, sustained relationships. Effective communication—listening and asking questions—and focusing on both the content and the relationship with others is key in what he calls, “a collaborative negotiation style.”