If you picture folks in suits with arms crossed engaged in a staredown when you picture negotiation, you’re not alone. Many people are used to the idea of negotiation being a battle of wills to see who wins in the end. 

In fact, negotiation has much, much more to do with finely tuned communication than strong-arming someone to bend to your will. 

This article will walk you through the basics of strategic negotiation, particularly in the context of a multiparty negotiation involving three or more parties. 

Before we get to that, note that strategic communication is one piece of a comprehensive negotiation strategy. Additional complimentary resources are available through the blog and The Persuasion Lab Podcast. Meanwhile, Premium subscribers have access to pre-deal checklists to ensure no aspect of strategic planning is neglected. 

Generally speaking, when we’re talking communication strategy, there are two aspects to keep in mind: 

  • HOW will you communicate 
  • WHAT will influence communication. 

The how is fairly self explanatory, though we’ll walk through some nuance to keep in mind as the negotiation plays out. The influences on communication are more complex, and include relationships (between and within parties – more on that here), whether or not an audience is present, and disclosure of privileged information. 

How Will You Communicate? 

If you’re undertaking a complex, multiparty negotiation where parties consist of more than one person, you need to know at least how the parties will communicate with each other AND how you will communicate within your party. 

Most commonly, interparty communication comes down to 

  • Phone
  • Email
  • Text communication (WhatsApp, Messaging, etc) 
  • In person 

It’s a good idea to be explicit at the outset regarding communication protocols and preferences, so that these operational considerations can be standardized for the duration of the negotiation. 

If it’s not feasible to do so, pay attention to how responsive parties are for various forms of communication. Does Party A respond to an email within minutes, whereas you can only ever get Party B on the phone? 

As the negotiation progresses, this is important information to have, as you can dial the speed of the negotiation up or down based on how you’re communicating with other parties. If you need to speed things up with Party B, call them! Need to slow it down? Use email instead. 

The same principles apply to intraparty communication. How does your team communicate? What are expectations of turnaround or acknowledgement of receipt? Does this change based on how quickly negotiations are progressing? Map these issues out with members of your team before you enter into the negotiation. Certainly things will change as the situation evolves, but having an explicit plan before you start helps to keep things running smoothly. 

What Influences Do You Need to Account For? 

  1. Relationships. Both within and between parties. We’ve covered a great deal of this issue here, so suffice it to say that having a clear understanding of the dynamics of a multiparty negotiation is important. Relationships will more than likely shift over the course of the deal, so its equally important to stay nimble in your communication with involved parties. 
  1. Audience, Onlookers and Interested Parties
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