How to Negotiate Effectively with Multiple Parties?

By Guido Stein and Kandarp Mehta

Soft skills, like negotiating, have become increasingly important in creating personal relationships and fostering opportunities for your business’ long-term success. While it is easier to formulate agreements between parties, diffusing differences and managing cooperation from multiple parties are far more complex, yet the most common in today’s business world, even in the daily transaction of our lives. In this article, the authors discuss the techniques on managing and leading multiparty negotiations.

Two sisters are fighting over an orange. Their mother intervenes and discovers that one sister wants to have juice while the other needs the peel to make a pie. The mother appropriately shares the two parts of the orange between the two sisters and both are very happy. You have read this kind of story in many negotiation books. However, to this scenario add another sister who wants the peel for cosmetic use, a grandmother who thinks that the orange is rotten and should be thrown away, a toddler who thinks that the orange is a ball and wants to play with it, and an elder brother who wants the orange simply so that nobody else can have it. That’s a multiparty negotiation for you. It is frequently difficult to identify who wants what and how to get what we want in such a dynamic situation. Let’s try to understand what some of the biggest challenges are in multiparty negotiations. 

One of the reasons why we need to understand multiparty negotiations well is that they are lot more frequent than we realise. In our negotiation programmes, we frequently ask participants what kind of negotiations they participate in the most: individual, team, or multiparty negotiations? Rarely do we find a negotiator who mentions multiparty negotiations as a frequent negotiation exercise. However, when we conduct the negotiation simulations, quite often the same negotiators confess that they had not realised how often they engaged in multiparty negotiation situations. Many internal negotiations are varieties of multiparty negotiations: for example, departmental meetings, family meetings to discuss property issues, business or interpersonal conflicts, meetings of neighbours to sort out neighbourhood problems, or even a meeting between a group of friends to discuss where should they go on vacation together.

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About the Authors

Guido Stein is Academic Director of the Executive MBA of Madrid, Professor at IESE Business School in the Department of Managing People in Organisations and Director of Negotiation Unit. He is partner of Inicia Corporate (M&A and Corporate Finance).

Kandarp Mehta is a PhD from IESE Business School, Barcelona. He has been with the Entrepreneurship Department at IESE since October 2009. His research has focussed on creativity in organisations and negotiations. He frequently works as consultant with startups on issues related to Innovation and Creativity.

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