Negotiating in the International Context
by Daniel Druckman
Summary written by: Conflict Research Consortium Staff
Citation: "Negotiating in the International Context" in Peacemaking in International Conflict: Methods and Techniques, eds. I. William Zartman and J. Lewis Rasmussen, Washington DC: United States Institute of Peace Press, 1997, pp. 81-124.
Four frameworks dominate research on negotiation. Druckman briefly describes each. He then outlines some of the points of agreement among the frameworks, and considers the usefulness of frameworks generally. The essay concludes by suggesting ways to make scholarly research relevant to the practitioner.
Game and decision theory views negotiation as a form of puzzle solving. Research employs scenarios such as the Prisoner's Dilemma, and focuses on how individuals make decisions under conditions of uncertainty, or when the choices are contingent on other people's actions. Other research views negotiation as a bargaining game, and focuses on when and why parties make concessions. Organization theorists approach negotiation as a form of organizational management, emphasizing complex communication among multiple parties. International relations scholars see negotiation as diplomatic politics, and focus attention on ways that political context affects negotiation.
Taken together, these different perspectives yield a comprehensive view of negotiation. They describe negotiations as proceeding in stages. They recognize the existence of turning points--windows of opportunity where negotiations can be taken to the next level. The organizational approach recognizes that negotiators may occupy several roles at once. Negotiators may suffer from boundary role conflict, when the demands of their various roles are opposed or inconsistent. International negotiators are often caught between their role as an advocate for their constituencies, and as a negotiator committed to reaching a mutually acceptable outcome.
The international relations model stresses the place of prenegotiation preparation in shaping the course of subsequent negotiations. A wide range of experiments have shown the significance of framing, that is, of how the parties perceive the conflict, their opponent, and their own options. Negotiation includes a bargaining phase. Researchers have evaluated concession strategies, and have identified starting mechanisms for initiating concession-making. They have identified variables that affect bargaining behavior, including the presence of "non-negotiable" values.
Theoretical frameworks are useful for drawing together experimental data into a more comprehensive, unified view. Frameworks can be used to design more complex and realistic experimental scenarios. Frames guide comparative and qualitative case analyses, by suggesting which elements of cases are most relevant to developing a deeper understanding. Frameworks can yield predictions of negotiation behavior and outcomes. Expanded negotiations frameworks are also being used to guide post-settlement activities.
Druckman offers three suggestions for making research relevant to practitioners: "include in the research variables over which policymakers have some control, do not define concepts at too high a level of abstraction, seek conditional generalizations."(p. 110) He notes that the research techniques of content analysis and decision analysis offer useful tools to the negotiation practitioner. Research groups have also developed computer programs that offer diagnostic and decision support tools. Research has given negotiators improved understanding of the role of emotion in negotiation, and similarly improved understanding of the impact of cultural differences on negotiations. Researchers have also developed training methods for negotiating across cultural differences.