• What are Negotiations? Distributive and Integrative Negotiations

    Negotiation holds some similar characteristics to mediation. It is another form of alternative dispute resolution and it is used, primarily, in an effort to reach a compromise between the parties. Negotiators are neutral third parties who are employed to listen to each party’s arguments and help draft an agreement. Depending on what negotiations are being held over, two opposite types of negotiation may be used. These forms of negotiation are known as distributive and integrative negotiation.

    Distributive negotiations deal with the distribution of assets among parties. There is typically a finite amount of the items to be distributed. However, the parties seeking distribution are typically attempting to obtain more than the other. It is essentially a tug of war between the parties. Typically, the parties involved in distributive negotiation are ones who have never had interaction prior to the negotiations and are not likely to have interaction following them. This makes for a more hostile environment because there is nothing compelling the parties to preserve a non-existent relationship. The parties will generally have entrenched positions as to what they want the outcome to be. Those positions will be self-serving because they are often not concerned about any future relations.

    Of course, this competitive approach can lead to various risks being taken. Primarily, those involved in distributive and competitive negotiations can hinder any ability at forming a good relationship amongst each other in the future. This is not always a problem, but there are no guarantees that parties will never have to deal with each other again. It may serve the interests of all the parties better to cooperate and not attempt to completely ostracize the others. Along with threatening any future relations, those involved in these negotiations also run the risk of being too headstrong to resolve the dispute. This can lead to too much back and forth argumentation and not enough compromise. When parties fail to compromise, they run into the problem of possibly reaching an impasse. Not only can an impasse in negotiations prevent any form of resolution from occurring, but it can also lead to increased costs for all parties involved. This is directly contrary to the idea of alternative dispute resolution. Parties attempting to negotiate most likely do so in an effort to avoid the extensive costs that are tied to the lengthy process of litigation. If the parties involved are not reaching an agreement and are not avoiding what they set out to avoid, why negotiate in the first place?

    Integrative negotiation works in an entirely different manner. The major difference is that integrative negotiations require cooperation on some level in order for negotiations to actually result in resolution. Accordingly, there is an interest in maintaining or forming a relationship between the parties as a more long-term benefit. Though parties still have self-interest involved in their negotiations, they do not use their self-interest against or at the expense of the other party. Therefore, when a compromise is reached between the parties, it is not seen as one party beating the other. Rather, the parties can view it as beneficial for both in the short and/or long-term.

    Both parties enter into negotiations hoping to walk away with the sense of achievement. There is, obviously, no point in negotiating if there is never going to be an agreement reached or nothing is going to be achieved. When the parties enter into negotiations expecting to get some of what they want at the expense of making concessions for the others, it is easier for a compromise to be made. The parties will most likely not be as headstrong as those involved in distributive negotiations and they may also be more understanding as to another party’s wishes. Also, there is a belief between the parties that they share a common interest within the dispute. This is beneficial because this belief can form the basis of the party’s willingness to compromise to a certain degree.

    Risks are not avoided by taking an integrative approached, however. Negotiations that take an integrative approach often do so under the assumption that the parties will be willing to compromise and work together. If this assumption is wrong, negotiations may reach an impasse. If this occurs, the negotiator may be forced to adopt a new approach to the negotiations in order to reach a resolution. By adopting a new approach, the negotiator may have to pin the parties against each other and thus facilitate the possibility of poor relations. Negotiations that go awry are likely to never achieve an agreement and can thus become just an extraordinary waste of time and money.
  • Ask a Legal Question