Developing specific talents for sustainable negotiations

February 27, 2018

The key concept of sustainable negotiation is that negotiation is a never-ending process and, as such, it evolves constantly.


The vision of the process of negotiation stopping whenever a deal is signed is a shortsighted one. It is an artificial milestone established by people who then hand it down to executors.

One of the reasons why negotiators feel uncomfortable when working in intercultural settings is the need of dealing with duality. Being able to deal with duality is paramount because the universe is governed by two sets of laws.

The laws of Newton, stated four centuries ago, still explain behaviors of matters that are our size and that we can see, while the laws of quantum physics govern everything we can’t see but make possible the existence of everything we see, that is, atoms and subatomic particles.

There are a lot of nonverbal and unseen factors, people and behaviors that rule negotiations. Failing to identify and understand their impact is failing to design the appropriate negotiating strategy. Einstein was the first scientist to draw our attention to the fact that what is not seen outnumbers what is seen.

In addition, when you work with other people there is the phenomenon of entanglement, which in physics means that two particles can communicate in real time independently on the distance between them. What you do to an electron happens to its twin even if it is very far away. In negotiation this means interdependence.

In our relationships with others, every action, every word that has an impact on us has an impact on them. Perhaps not the same one, because of different perceptions and cultural differences, but an impact nonetheless. This is our world of abstract thought.


Working well together


Sustainable negotiation integrates all phases of the process including the enforcement of the deal, which is the most delicate part of the whole process. A contract is just theory. Laying down clauses in a contract doesn’t ensure a fruitful cooperation.

Sustainable negotiation understands that parties collaborate while negotiating the deal they want to sign and should co-operate once the contract is enforced and when all partners need to get down to work together.

This is when difficulties arise. If the partners share the same vision of future, they will be able to overcome difficulties and find solutions to any issues. But if all they envisaged during negotiation was the deal, then any problems they face together might lead to blaming each other, to neglecting their respective obligations, to renegotiating clauses and eventually ending the partnership.

As a result, each side will need to look for other opportunities and partners and start over with new negotiations. This is a costly endeavor in terms of time, effort and money.

Those practicing sustainable negotiation experience exponential growth because all their focus is on future development. They don’t waste their resources with mediation and arbitration or looking for other opportunities. Rather, they invest in constant growth.

That is why sustainable negotiation makes companies more profitable. By focusing on growth along with their partners. Companies face challenges and take opportunities together. This means sharing risks and resources and securing a sustainable position in their target markets.

Sustainable negotiations require a common vision of future and this is the very first thing you should be able to measure when you start any business collaboration.


Become a talented sustainable negotiator


Make sure that you share a common vision of future with the people you are negotiating with. Ideas can change, and they do change, but your deep and shared vision of future should remain the same. This is the real bond with your partners.

Don’t always use the same negotiating strategy. Sustainable negotiation is about tailor-made strategies. Design the one that fits best for the people you want to do business with.

Understand that conflicting ideas and situations lead to tough decision-making, and sustainable negotiation is effective because it goes far beyond ideas’ compatibility. It focuses on deep and shared goals for the future.

Be curious, open-minded, and creative. There is a lot you still don’t know.


Avoid conflict by all means even if they push you

Be the solution finder to their issues. You become a valuable sustainable resource for the people you are negotiating with


Keep in constant touch

Never minimize their complaints – instead, show them how easy it is to solve their problems with your help


Be their advisor without arrogance

Know their market as well as you know yours


Never think about winning

This is not a competition. Win over your competitors, not over your partners.


About the author

Eliane Karsaklian, Ph.D., is a big picture thinker, academic and practical businessperson. She has lived and worked in a number of countries during her career and mastered five languages, giving her extensive knowledge and experience in negotiation techniques and intercultural relationships.

As an internationally known speaker and award-winning researcher, Dr. Karsaklian is the Director of the trilingual Master Program in International Negotiation at Sorbonne and is invited as speaker at a number of universities around the world. She is currently visiting professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Her more recent book – Sustainable Negotiation. What Physics Can Teach Us About International Negotiation – introduces a new perspective on international negotiation, providing practical, field-tested examples, experiments and guidance to enable readers to implement sustainable negotiation in the real world. The book borrows from the field of physics to make the case that negotiators need to know what is not visible so they can explain what is visible.


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