Agreeing Negotiation Protocols

Negotiation commonly relies on some form of rules of engagement, sometimes unspoken. These standards of conduct or protocols help clarify and guide participants through the negotiation. They cover the behavior of the parties and procedures to be used and are usefully negotiated before or during the first formal meeting.

Even for meetings (‘negotiations’) within a family, agreeing time and place and what is acceptable behavior can be fruitful. For example, this can include communication ‘rules’ such as listening carefully, everyone having a chance to speak, and no derogatory language. Such rules help support a calm environment and facilitate avoiding a fight.

Agreement of process protocols help establish early common ground

A major benefit from agreeing these process protocols is that they are items common to both sides and are usually easy to agree upon. Importantly, in the early introductory phase of a negotiation, they can engender a sense of  working together to locate sensible solutions. As such, they help build an early atmosphere of collaboration, and a sense that the negotiators will be treated fairly and the negotiation will have a positive outcome.

Checklist for Negotiation Protocols

When agreeing the development of negotiation protocols or common rules of engagement, stay focused on ‘how’ the negotiation will most usefully be performed. At this early stage avoid discussing anything about the negotiation substance, the ‘what’ the negotiation is about. In a series of negotiation meetings, maybe the first meeting is just about confirming protocols as to how the event is to be conducted.

Here is a checklist of possible negotiation process protocols you might consider reviewing with your counter-party and gaining their commitment prior to discussing the negotiation content.

where – their place, your place, neutral territory, alternate locations
venue set-up – specific requirements, who will control
when – timing: day of week, starting and finishing time
duration – how often will you meet (if a series of meetings)
membership – who is coming: numbers, technical knowledge, seniority
chairperson – is there a need for one
observers – allowed or not
agenda – who will write, co-ordinate
documents – how circulate
minutes – who will take, how confirm
time out – agree to break if any party calls for one
impasses – how to handle deadlocks, usefulness of ‘parking bay’ (on a flipchart)
formality – use of first names
behaviour – being respectful, managing emotion, no personal attacks
confidentiality – (no) recording, informing outsiders (eg. the media, press releases)
approach – agree item-by-item or as a package (nothing is agreed until everything agreed)
cross-talk – acceptability of side conversations, note-passing
authorities – approval processes
devices – computer, tablet, mobile phone usage
language – need for an interpreter, how handle
culture – check specific expectations
facilities – break-out rooms, data projector/screen, flip charts
socializing – dinners, functions, (no) gifts
costs – bear own or share equally
other housekeeping – hospitality, refreshments, bio-breaks

Giving consideration to developing these process protocols early in a negotiation is highly recommended, particularly for on-going negotiations over many meetings. They help create an initial positive negotiation climate as the negotiators affirm each other. This early collaboration sets the tone for further interactions, and may be critical for achieving a successfully negotiated outcome.

Now ask yourself: What other protocols have you found useful and can add to the above?

To discuss this article in more depth and explore developing your negotiation capabilities, please contact us via email or call +612 9299 9688.

About ENSI

Get in touch today so we can hear your needs.

ENS International (ENSI) provides negotiation consulting and training services helping people and organizations think and act differently to achieve more. 

Negotiators gain the edge using proven ENSI influencing processes incorporating commercial psychology with a deep understanding of human behaviour. ENSI delivers through Consulting Services and In-House or Open Course training. 

With over 60 Practitioners working within 73 countries we have a depth of experience across a diverse range of sectors.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form