AskDefine | Define negotiate

Dictionary Definition

negotiate v : discuss the terms of an arrangement; "They negotiated the sale of the house" [syn: negociate, talk terms]

User Contributed Dictionary



Latin negotium (Eng. usg. 1599)


  • italbrac RP /nəˈgəʊ.ʃi.eɪt/ or /nɪˈgəʊ.si.eɪt/, /n@g@(U)Se(I)t/
  • italbrac US /nəˈgoʊ.ʃi.eɪt/ or /nɪˈgoʊ.ʃi.eɪt/, /n@go(U)Se(I)t/


  1. To confer with others in order to come to terms or reach an agreement.
    1963: ''"You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue." —Martin Luther King, Jr., to the eight fellow clergymen who opposed the civil rights action, "Letter from Birmingham Jail," Why We Can't Wait
  2. To arrange or settle something by mutual agreement.
    We negotiated the contract to everyone's satisfaction.
  3. To succeed in coping with, or getting over something.
    We negotiated the mountain track with difficulty.
    Although the car was quite rickety, he could negotiate the curves very well.''


confer to reach an agreement (intransitive)
arrange a mutual agreement (transitive)
coping with, getting over

Extensive Definition

For Wikipedia's negotiation policy, see . For other uses, see Negotiation (disambiguation).
Negotiation is a dialogue intended to resolve disputes, to produce an agreement upon courses of action, to bargain for individual or collective advantage, or to craft outcomes to satisfy various interests. It is the primary method of alternative dispute resolution.
Negotiation occurs in business, non-profit organizations, government branches, legal proceedings, among nations and in personal situations such as marriage, divorce, parenting, and everyday life. The study of the subject is called negotiation theory. Those who work in negotiation professionally are called negotiators. Professional negotiators are often specialized, such as union negotiators, leverage buyout negotiators, peace negotiators, hostage negotiators, or may work under other titles, such as diplomats, legislators or brokers.

Approaches to negotiation

Negotiation typically manifests itself with a trained negotiator acting on behalf of a particular organization or position. It can be compared to mediation where a disinterested third party listens to each sides' arguments and attempts to help craft an agreement between the parties. It is also related to arbitration which, as with a legal proceeding, both sides make an argument as to the merits of their "case" and then the arbitrator decides the outcome for both parties.
Negotiation involves three basic elements: process, behavior and substance. The process refers to how the parties negotiate: the context of the negotiations, the parties to the negotiations, the tactics used by the parties, and the sequence and stages in which all of these play out. Behavior refers to the relationships among these parties, the communication between them and the styles they adopt. The substance refers to what the parties negotiate over: the agenda, the issues (positions and - more helpfully - interests), the options, and the agreement(s) reached at the end.
Skilled negotiators may use a variety of tactics ranging from negotiation hypnosis, to a straight forward presentation of demands or setting of preconditions to more deceptive approaches such as cherry picking. Intimidation and salami tactics may also play a part in swaying the outcome of negotiations.

The advocate's approach

In the advocacy approach, a skilled negotiator usually serves as advocate for one party to the negotiation and attempts to obtain the most favorable outcomes possible for that party. In this process the negotiator attempts to determine the minimum outcome(s) the other party is (or parties are) willing to accept, then adjusts their demands accordingly. A "successful" negotiation in the advocacy approach is when the negotiator is able to obtain all or most of the outcomes their party desires, but without driving the other party to permanently break off negotiations, unless the best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA) is acceptable.
Traditional negotiating is sometimes called win-lose because of the assumption of a fixed "pie", that one person's gain results in another person's loss. This is only true, however, if only a single issue needs to be resolved, such as a price in a simple sales negotiation. If multiple issues are discussed, differences in the parties' preferences make win-win negotiation possible. For example, in a labor negotiation, the union might prefer job security over wage gains. If the employers have opposite preferences, a trade is possible that is beneficial to both parties. Such a negotiation is therefore not an adversarial zero-sum game.

The "win/win" negotiator's approach

During the early part of the twentieth century, academics such as Mary Parker Follett developed ideas suggesting that agreement often can be reached if parties look not at their stated positions but rather at their underlying interests and requirements to reach a decision that benefits both parties.
In the 1970s, practitioners and researchers began to develop win-win approaches to negotiation. Win-win is taken from Economic Game Theory, and has been adopted by negotiation North American academics to loosely mean Principled Negotiation. Getting to YES was published by Roger Fisher and William Ury as part of the Harvard negotiation project. The book's approach, referred to as Principled Negotiation, is also sometimes called mutual gains bargaining. The mutual gains approach has been effectively applied in environmental situations (see Lawrence Susskind and Adil Najam) as well as labor relations where the parties (e.g. management and a labor union) frame the negotiation as "problem solving".
There are a tremendous number of other scholars who have contributed to the field of negotiation, including Gerard E. Watzke at Tulane University, Sara Cobb at George Mason University, Len Riskin at the University of Missouri, Howard Raiffa at Harvard, Robert McKersie and Lawrence Susskind at MIT, and Adil Najam and Jeswald Salacuse at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

Emotion in negotiation

Emotions play an important part in the negotiation process, although it is only in recent years that their effect is being studied. Emotions have the potential to play either a positive or negative role in negotiation. During negotiations, the decision as to whether or not settle, rests in part on emotional factors. Negative emotions can cause intense and even irrational behavior, and can cause conflicts to escalate and negotiations to break down, while positive emotions facilitate reaching an agreement and help to maximize joint gains.
Affect effect: Dispositional affects affect the various stages of the negotiation process: which strategies are planned to be used, which strategies are actually chosen, the way the other party and its intentions are perceived, the willingness to reach an agreement and the final outcomes. Positive affectivity (PA) and negative affectivity (NA) of one or more of the negotiating sides can lead to very different outcomes.

Positive affect in negotiation

Even before the negotiation process starts, people in a positive mood have more confidence, and higher tendencies to plan to use a cooperative strategy. and more cooperative strategies. Indeed, compared with negotiators with negative or natural affectivity, negotiators with positive affectivity reached more agreements and tended to honor those agreements more. Post negotiation positive affect has beneficial consequences as well. It increases satisfaction with achieved outcome and influences one’s desire for future interactions. Moreover, because anger makes negotiators more self-centered in their preferences, it increases the likelihood that they will reject profitable offers. However, expression of negative emotions during negotiation can sometimes be beneficial: legitimately expressed anger can be an effective way to show one's commitment, sincerity, and needs. A possible implication of this model is, for example, that the positive effects PA has on negotiations (as described above) will be seen only when either motivation or ability are low.

The effect of the partner’s emotions

Most studies on emotion in negotiations focus on the effect of the negotiator’s own emotions on the process. However, what the other party feels might be just as important, as group emotions are known to affect processes both at the group and the personal levels. When it comes to negotiations, trust in the other party is a necessary condition for its emotion to affect, It provoked both dominating and yielding behaviors of the opponent.
  • In real life there is self-selection to which negotiation one gets into, which effects the emotional commitment, motivation and interests. However this is not the case in lab studies.
  • Lab studies tend to focus on relatively few well defined emotions. Real life scenarios provoke a much wider scale of emotions.
  • Coding the emotions has a double catch: if done by a third side, some emotions might not be detected as the negotiator sublimates them for strategic reasons. Self report measures might overcome this, but they are usually filled only before or after the process, and if filled during the process might interfere with it.


References and further reading

negotiate in German: Verhandlung
negotiate in Spanish: Negociación
negotiate in Esperanto: Traktado
negotiate in French: Négociation
negotiate in Hebrew: משא ומתן
negotiate in Lithuanian: Derybos
negotiate in Dutch: Onderhandeling
negotiate in Japanese: 交渉人
negotiate in Polish: Negocjacje
negotiate in Portuguese: Negociação
negotiate in Romanian: Negociere
negotiate in Slovenian: Pogajanje
negotiate in Serbian: Преговарање
negotiate in Finnish: Neuvottelu
negotiate in Chinese: 談判專家

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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