7 Conflict Resolution Techniques for International Negotiators

Mention negotiation and many people become tense and fearful that the process will somehow cheat them out of a safe position.   Certainly sharks do exist who intentionally intend to mislead you but they are in the minority and if negotiation was only about inducing you to accept an unfavourable position then very few discussions would be successful. Of course there are risks that you will end up with a poor deal if you are careless, have not prepared and you are not focused. We advocate that you take a proactive approach, following a number of steps that will alert you to danger naturally but keep you looking positively for solutions that will be sustainable for both or all parties.   This 7 step guide will help you develop the most from a situation, adding value both now and for future relations. There will be times when the attitude and schemes of the other party makes you want to cut and run.   Very often this is just not possible, particularly when operating professionally rather than personally.   Let us now consider each step and how it will add value for you.


1. Understand where you are coming from in terms of your personality, what threatens you, what environment do you flourish in, when are you at your best or worst, what are your key values and how do you feel and what do you tend to do when those values are compromised by others.

This stage is essential because without this self-knowledge you run the risk of reacting unconsciously and irrationally to certain behaviours or attitudes. You need to learn to steer behaviour to be more in line with your values or to accept that different behaviour and attitudes are not always a threat and to roll with it. At Frontline Training Solutions we have developed a negotiating model called the SWAG that will help you understand yourself, your instincts when under stress and your preferences and how you are likely to think, feel and react to certain people and certain situations – and they to you.


2. Be clear in your mind about why you are seeking a negotiated deal or settlement. Does the situation really require two or more parties to come together in order to move forward on something you want. They may need you but do you really need them? Identify the best possible outcome for yourself and this will help you see what you are prepared to accept and why. Try to predict the other side’s needs and what they are likely to ask for in order to get them; what is essential to them and what they might compromise on.

This detailed knowledge of your own position and a reasonable guess at the other side’s makes you more sensitive to your needs and the other party’s needs and helps you raise the important issues and ask the right questions. It will also get you thinking of creative solutions from the outset that are beyond simply having what you want and attempting to trick or bully the other person into giving it to you – or they to you!


3. Present your case as a series of wants and preferences without getting drawn into making categorical statements. Build trust by revealing what you want and why you want it – just don’t come across as insistent or dogmatic.       Be accepting that it is conditional by using words such as, ‘ideally’ and ‘our preference’.

This is important because firstly you want to come across as someone who is flexible, accommodating and pleasant to do business with, and secondly you do not want to reveal early on how important an issue is to you. Red lines can come later. If you do not address a need so obvious that it is clearly the ‘elephant in the room’ the other side may grow suspicious and lose trust in you. You do not have to state how important the issue is to you but not to raise it could seem strange and suggest you are hiding something.   They will then hide important information from you and you may not succeed in achieving a negotiated settlement and sour future relations.


4. Use the Frontline Training Solutions IRIS technique of recognising the value of and values lying behind a proposition.

This is a very powerful way of achieving two things: firstly, to build trust and genuinely understand the needs of another by suspending your point until you have got to the bottom of their own; secondly, this approach encourages creative thinking and helps you present your differing view through the words and values of the other side. Attending our International Meeting Skills seminar will help you become expert in this essential technique that has been used and applauded for more than fifteen years.


5. Once you have a good idea of the values involved and the value the other side seeks you can start to be clearer and more assertive about what a deal or proposition should look like.       Using Frontline Training Solutions’ PISA technique you will be able to make a clear and short statement of your view for the way ahead that is logical, easy to understand and is driven by clear motivations, such as threat or opportunity.

It is useful, at a certain point in the negotiations, to state what you want and to ask clearly what the other side want.   Some may try to avoid telling you what they want but this will eventually reduce trust and mean that parties start to keep their cards close to their chests. One avoidance technique is where you state what you want and the other side asks what are you prepared to give to have what you want, without themselves revealing their wants. It is your choice whether to be sucked into this game. This is close to being an invalid move in honest negotiation but is not necessarily evidence of a dirty trick. Know the rules of the game you are prepared to play and what you are prepared to do if the rules essential to you are not mutually respected.


6. Understand the impact of national culture and style, gender, age and any other form of diversity, particularly when it comes to tension and differing expectations about the rules for conducting the process and style of the negotiation or meeting. The more dogmatic you are the more the other side will become. Again self-knowledge and anticipating issues that are sensitive to you will make you more aware of and accepting of issues that are close to the other side. Accommodate the other side by all means but do not do so without explanation of the cost to you.

Diversity produces differences in approach and these differences can appear threatening, particularly when you have something to lose. Roll with what might appear to be the punches but try explaining what you need and how a particular response makes you feel. This might feel a bit embarrassing but the alternative is that you end up playing by the other side’s rules and in the end feeling resentful.   This is very likely to cause an eventual breakdown in discussions. Equally you need to be sensitive to any discomfort or barriers you might be presenting to the other side and any aspect of you that might be intimidating. Thus you need to be in a constant dance, sensitive to sudden changes in mood from yourself and the other side and reacting to it.


7. Once you have arrived at a solution test its understanding between the two of you. Keep it as an ‘in principle’ decision until it has been stress-tested. Apply case studies or hypothetical challenges produced by both parties to see how robust the negotiated solution is the expected response from the other side.

This stress-testing using case studies from both sides will not cover all eventualities but it should show very quickly how the other side intends to apply the decision and highlight any glaring inconsistencies or unfairness in how the decision will be applied.


These seven steps will keep you on track but there is nothing like practising them in a safe environment with plenty of feedback from trainers and peers alike. Such training as provided by Frontline Training Solutions through our international meeting and negotiation seminars will help you be fully prepared, stay safe and even take the edge at you next bilateral or multilateral international negotiation.