Monday, August 24, 2015

The Negotiation Within

HNMCP Director Bob Bordone, former HNMCP Associate Toby Berkman ’10, and Clinical Fellow Sara del Nido ’13, and have been published in the Fall 2014 volume of the University of Missouri School of Law’s Journal of Dispute Resolution. The article is entitled, “The Negotiation Within: The Impact of Internal Conflict Over Identity and Role on Across-The-Table Negotiations.”

Bordone, Berkman, and del Nido argue that most existing scholarship on negotiation focuses on strategic, structural and psychological barriers to agreement in across-the-table negotiations, but that internal conflict also plays a profound and powerful role as a barrier, as well. Building on the groundbreaking work in Difficult Conversations and Beyond Reason, which brought to the fore the important identity issues underlying negotiators’ experiences, the article draws on a broad range of scholarship from the fields of psychology, sociology, philosophy, and even literature to propose a framework for understanding internal conflicts, and offers prescriptive advice for self-diagnosing and constructively handling one’s own “negotiation within.”

The framework suggests three domains of internal conflict that, if left unaddressed or poorly handled, could be detrimental to across-the-table negotiations: aspirational identity conflicts (conflicts between two or more identities that the individual aspires to embody), valenced identity conflicts (conflicts between identities the individual experiences as having a positive or negative valence), and transformative identity conflicts (conflict between one or more stable, known identities and a future, unknown identity). An across-the-table negotiation could “trigger” one or more of these domains. While some typical strategies for handling “negotiations within” include denial, avoidance, suppression, or resignation, negotiators should instead move towards “integration,” a thoughtful weighing of all the interests and concerns of the multiple internal selves involved and an effort to generate creative options to meet these interests. To make this move, the article suggests a three-stage process: building awareness of internal conflict through “mirror work,” thoughtfully preparing for across-the-table negotiations through role-play exercises in “chair work,” and managing a “negotiation within” in the moment it is triggered through “table work.”

“The Negotiation Within” represents the beginning of what the authors hope will be a rich conversation among academics and practitioners about internal conflict: “Given the interdisciplinary nature of the work, we hope that thinkers from across the spectrum . . . contribute to an ongoing conversation about how internal conflicts and ‘negotiations within’ play a role in our daily experience, and how we might reframe these conflicts into opportunities for growth and collaboration.”