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The power of principled negotiation

Participants attending the Principled negotiation training

Participants attending the Principled negotiation training

It is absurd that people fight, destroy, burn bridges and create a lot of unnecessary animosity between themselves and thereafter, sit around the table and try to find each other again. Selfishness, competition, greed and self-aggrandisement have led the world to become the mess it is today.

The ability to negotiate and the necessary preparation for the actual negotiation are important life skills that can make families, organisations, companies and even countries successful in their day to day undertakings. In agriculture, contracts and partnerships have become increasingly unavoidable and are not a bad idea if they are agreed upon and sealed on equal terms.

As farmers, we need to stand our ground and push our partners in business to realise and recognise that our relationships are or should be mutually beneficial. We are equal partners and our role as producers cannot be substituted by any other arrangement. So, our power lies in our ability to negotiate and capacity building in that regard should be part of our annual activities.

Recognising the importance of this skill, SACAU in partnership with We Effect hosted a principled negotiation training workshop from 15 to 17 October 2018 in Boksburg, South Africa. The training was ably conducted by Professor David Venter, a renowned expert in negotiations. The three “Cs” namely, capability, competence and confidence in negotiating were the take away message for the participants. Participants also heard that in negotiations there are two important things that empower the negotiator, namely; information and time. They also learned that negotiating creates value rather than destroy it.

The corner posts/ deal parameters of negotiation are aspiration base, the real base, the best alternative to a negotiated agreement and the first offers. The aspiration base is what we want to achieve and quite often we aspire too low. The real base is that point when a negotiator calls it quits because there will not be any reasonable gain in pursuing the deal. When one walks away, they do not necessarily stop the idea, they walk away to the best alternative and this best alternative must always be part of the planning and preparation for negotiations.

The “first offers” is the value or price a negotiator pitches at and this number must always be evidence-based from market research or intelligence. There are also danger signs or points of caution when negotiating a deal. Assumptions, mental flexibility, relationships, perceptions and framing are critical elements to be considered because they can easily make or break deals. In addition, when negotiating, a conducive climate for the negotiation process to take place in such a way that positive results are achieved for both parties needs to always be created.

The Professor concluded the training by showing a video of Dr. Robert Cialdini, currently the world’s most sought-after social scientist, summarising the six rules of human behavior and how one can get people to say yes to requests. With stunning examples, Dr. Cialdini captures one’s imagination as he deals with each of the six rules, namely; reciprocity, scarcity, authority, consistency/ commitment, consensus and liking.

The participants in this year’s principled negotiation training were drawn from SACAU’s members and other We Effect partners. The We Effect partners are civil society organisations mainly from Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi.