As a brief follow-up to some of the preceding entries, it’s interesting to note the summary comments in Lewicki, Barry & Saunders, Negotiation, (6th ed, 2010 – yes, that’s the date on the publishing details page!), on types of relationships and their impact on negotiation styles. They identify 4 relationship styles, following Fiske, The Structures of Social Life (1991):
- Communal sharing
- Authority ranking
- Equality matching, and
- Market pricing.
And comment that parties in communal-sharing relationships, or who expect to have future interactions:
- are more co-operative and empathetic;
- craft better quality agreements;
- perform better on both decision-making and motor tasks;
- focus their attention on the other party’s outcomes as well as their own;
- focus more attention on the norms that develop about the way that they work together;
- are more likely to share information with the other and less likely to use coercive tactics;
- are more likely to use indirect communication about conflict issues and develop a unique conflict structure; and
- may be more likely to use compromise and problem-solving as strategies for resolving conflicts [pp 304-305]
This I think is consistent with thinking that, in this region (South East Asia) we’re more likely to see negotiation and mediation styles characterised by an avoidance of direct conflict and confrontation and the acceptance of ‘contradiction’ as a state of affairs but not as a mode of engagement.
However, the relationship categories clearly are going to overlap and there will be occasions when the same people will find that different transactions invoke different aspects of their relationships. Accordingly, while there is a stress on communal relationships, there’s also a recognition of authority structures – for which reason the patterns of decision-making listed above are going to make way for more prescriptive styles.
What’s open to question is whether the outcomes are any better for people in such close relationships. If, as is likely, these negotiators are less inclined to forceful (not aggressive) negotiations, there’s a good chance that value will be left on the table – though the trade-off is that relationship value remains strong. While not suggesting that those less conflict-averse produce better outcomes, there’s a chance that the more conflict-averse will sacrifice interests for the sake of relationships (or because of perceived obligations in hierarchical societies). The observer’s challenge here is to keep the question open as to what qualities contribute to ‘better’ outcomes!
I’m reminded of this too in conversations with a mediation colleague here who – because I’m looking at ways of getting back into mediation practice in a setting rather different from New Zealand – advised me that mediation clients are much more likely to
- see the mediator as authority figure; and
- expect substantive input into the possible outcomes; and
- expect a more directive style on process
On these points, it’s also worth seeing the first few chapters of Lee and Teh (eds) An Asian Perspective on Mediation.
For that reason, too, the debate between the various ‘schools’ of mediation – between the purist facilitative types and the evaluative mediators (as well, of course, as the transformative, narrative and others) – is likely to be too dogmatic a debate when we see what’s expected of mediation, and what’s familiar in negotiation styles in this region.