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Coalitions in Negotiations

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What are coalitions and how do they affect negotiations?

Coalitions are a (sub)group of two or more individuals who join together in using their resources to affect the outcome of a decision in a mixed-motive situation. Some key challenges to negotiating as a coalition include:

  • Optimal coalition size
  • Trust and temptation in coalitions
    • Status quo bias – A tendency in decision making and negotiation to prefer current circumstances over proposed new ones.
    • Coalitional integrity – The tendency for parties to remain loyal to a coalition, even when they can obtain more resources outside of that coalition.
  • Dividing the pie
    • Getting out of the vicious circle
      • The core solution
      • The Shapley model and pivotal power  A principle in which people expect others to hold views of the world similar to their own.
      • Raiffa’s hybrid model
    • Tips for low-power players

Some tactics generally understood to maximize the effectiveness of a coalition include:

  • Making contacts early – Early coalitions are able to more effectively align resource allocation and interests.
  • Seeking verbal commitments – Seeking verbal commitments to a cause or plan of action increases the likelihood of success by aligning interests and minimizing the likelihood of defection.
  • Avoiding bias – Coalitions are generally built around a commonality of understanding. Using unbiased-appearing rationale to divide the pie. This can avoid alienating coalition members based upon principle.
  • Sharing all relevant information – Coalitions are built upon mutual understanding. Sharing all information relevant to all parties interests and objectives will aid in this understanding.
  • Focusing on interests, not positions – Focusing on positions creates a confrontational environment. This can reduce cooperation and lead to purely competitive tactics. As such, it becomes more difficult to reach integrative results.
  • Testing assumptions and inferences – Validating key assumptions about one’s position can help individuals more fully understand and articulate their position. It can also aid the development of a common understanding between coalition members.
  • Seeking consensus – Try to make certain there is consensus among members about intent and procedural objectives and in decision making. Try to avoid disagreeing openly with any member of the group.
  • Explaining one’s self – It can be highly beneficial to explain the reasons behind one’s actions and statements. It builds upon the commonality of understanding necessary for effective coalitions. Be as specific as possible and use examples to aid in understanding. It may be advantageous to make statements that invite questions and comments. You may also want to engage in open self critique.
  • Seeking participation – The leader of the coalition should seek to have all members participate in all phases of the process. This often requires considerable organization and checks to make certain all parties are heard and considered.
  • Handling conflict – Jointly design ways to test disagreements and solutions. This may include developing a path or process for discussing undiscussable issues.
  • Avoiding distraction – There are any number of distractions that can derail a negotiation involving a coalition. Try to keep the discussion focused. This may mean not stirring up side controversies or making personal attacks that otherwise distract the group.

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